I loved this movie!!!!! It was truly nuts. A lot of people are calling this a horror movie which it definitely is, but people keep asking if it’s “scary” which is not the word I would use. I think it’s very TENSION filled (amazingly so, the pacing and build is capital A, Artful) and it does have conceptual horror where you have to sit with ideas that are disturbing, but there’s not that many gore/jump scare moments. There’s definitely a little girl being decapitated by a telephone pole, and a pigeon being decapitated by said little girl. But most of the other scary things are just REALIZATIONS you have which is SO COOL.
Ok so-basic plot: Toni Collette (a goddess on this earth who’s never made a bad movie, including xXx: Return of Xander Cage) is a woman who builds tiny scenes for a job (white people) and has a very fucked up family history. The almost first scene in the movie (the very first scene is a zoom-in on the brother waking up in a dollhouse that the whole movie takes place in which I will get to later) is their family going to the funeral for Toni’s mom. She gives this REALLY strange eulogy about what a private person her mom was, and that even talking about her seems like a betrayal. She comments on how she’s honestly suspicious of how many people attended and how she doesn’t know any of them. It’s nuts, it feels so awkward but no one seems to care. We also see a symbol everywhere, Toni and her mom both have it on a necklace and it’s hanging up in certain places as ornamentation for the service.
We learn some stuff at the funeral: the daughter draws, and she has a nut allergy. In the most relatable two minutes ever filmed, the little girl (who looks like the white boy from Stranger Things? Gaten Matarazzao? Am I alone in this?) opens a chocolate bar and takes a bite and her dad immediately is like, “Are there nuts in that? You know you can’t have nuts” and she’s like, “No” and then A HALF SECOND LATER her mom walks up and is like, “Are there nuts in that? Cause we don’t have the EpiPen” and the amount of times my parents would ask me the same question back to back growing up was innumerable.
Ok so they go home, we’re like getting to know this family, the brother is older and seems angsty and weird but also normal. He likes a girl in his class, he has a mole, he’s closer to his dad, it all checks out.
Slowly we learn some more stuff. (Through an amazing monologue) we learn the mom (whose name is Annie btw) was made to come to grief counseling at a different time and she thinks it’s bullshit but she also doesn’t want to put any more pressure on her family. Her brother killed himself, her mom and her were estranged, the mom (Ellen) was weird but moved in with Annie at the end, and Annie’s dad killed himself too I think. She (Toni/Annie) used to sleepwalk and one time woke up covered in lighter fluid at the foot of her son’s bed, where he and his sister were also covered in lighter fluid and she was holding a lit match. She blew it out and apologized/tried to explain but she feels like her son never forgave her & thinks she hates him. In a dream thing later we learn that she never wanted him but her mom made her have him.
Ok so hopefully if you’re reading this you’ve seen the movie, normally I go through and say what happened but I’m finding it really difficult to do that because I saw it a few days ago and the timeline has already left me, but also because so much happens. BUT what I do want to talk about is my thoughts and FEELINGS about the movie because that’s what’s been sitting with me and I want to share.
Ok, so. This movie I think was brilliant in a lot of ways because it lived in this ambiguity where you never knew *quite* who you could trust, (playing with trust of the narrator when the protagonist is a woman is so interesting, it made me wonder about if the main character in One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest was a woman would reader reaction have been the same?) and what was really happening. To me this movie was a rumination on the intersections of mental illness/family/religion, and where the lines are for behavior becoming harmful, namely when does something shift from regular religion to cult or from human behavior to classified illness. It seems to be when it hurts your family or you prioritize it over the people in your life. The biggest question to me throughout this whole thing was: was Toni Collette (& her mother) mentally ill and imagining/creating these things, or was there a supernatural cult thing happening and they were really communing with the spirit of the devil king?
The title of the movie is one of my favorite things about it because you think it’d be a clue to the answer but actually it supports both- hereditary can mean “determined by genetic factors/able to be passed on from parents to their offspring or descendants” (which would be the mental illness theory, that the mom and the daughter both had schizophrenia and were seeing things that weren’t really there) but ALSO it can mean, “a person holding a position by inheritance” LIKE the Devil King inheriting the body of the child and taking human form!! Supporting the ‘it’s all really happening’ theory. Also, Toni’s brother killed himself and she assumes it’s mental illness/he was unhinged but she says in the grief counseling meeting that he said his mom was “trying to put people inside of him” LIKE THE SPIRIT OF THE DEVIL- so it’s hard to tell whose reality was valid.
One of the most horrifying parts of the movie was Joan. If there was a group of people I swore I could always trust it’d be middle-aged women in linen but apparently not so. The idea that she must have been following Toni Collette for SO LONG—like from when she went to grief counseling for the FIRST time, when her mom was still alive to know about that group and WAITED her out?? And in that art supply parking lot??? Jesus lord. Also who forced Toni to go the first time I wonder?
Steve (Toni’s husband) I trusted the whole time. Also the funniest part of the movie was when he was going up to the attic and Toni was like, “And there’s more” and he was like, “More than the headless dead corpse of your mother in the attic? of course there is.” But like ok, STEVE–did she burn him to death?? I think they made it a bottle of lighter fluid to remind you that this was something she has almost done before/was potentially capable of doing within a delusion. But also it could have been the spirit!!! Tricky.
Also I loved the little girl I thought she was an incredible actress and so INTERESTING. She made so much of the relatively short screen time she had- and honestly with not that many lines either, the physicality was fuggin’ on point, I mean, the way she escalated her breathing episode in the car was a masterpiece, I can’t remember the last time I was that stressed out over something that wasn’t happening to me.
That 12 minute chunk that began with the close up of the girls at the party chopping walnuts (walnuts is their Chekhov’s gun!!!) and ended with the telephone pole beheading, was again some of the most artful build of tension and emotional pitch I have ever seen. I was STRESSING.
Also did she voodoo doll herself? Because she liked to make all those little totems and she was really close with the grandmother who was a Magic Priestess Queen or something (what was the field of flames thing? I forget what that was) and she cut the head off that pigeon and put it in an altar thing on her desk then SHE got beheaded. Coincidence?? I felt like the grandma possessed her and made her sacrifice herself. Also maybe it’s just all the oversized hoodies and dead birds and chocolate but I really identified with that little girl.
To return to the crux of this whole thing- there’s basically two stories that it could have been. Either it’s mental illness-which would mean, Toni dug up her mother and put her in the attic, her mother killed her father, she killed her husband-it’s this cycle of the disease. OR if the religion/cult thing is real, everything we saw is true and she tried to save them but the spirit possessed the daughter and killed her to eventually get the son to break to be weak enough to be inhabitable as a body.
Visually: The shot of the bike on the ground outside the house when the mom is in the car and watches Peter go inside then drives to grief counseling is BREATHTAKING. Some of those larger tracking shots of like the forrest and stuff were models I’m pretty sure, which is also fascinating. Also I love the little circle picture windows that were in the scenes she made and in the real house they lived in, it blurred the line of what was what and made everything look like a creepy dollhouse.
We cannot forget the element of these little houses and scenes being built, of which the whole story takes place (remember that zoom-in from the beginning??) and that would support the idea that it’s mental illness, everything we witness is part of Toni’s construction, she’s creating all the elements in this world, and pulling all the strings. I wonder if the pressure she felt from the gallery represented the real world closing in-maybe that and the deaths made her snap? I wish I could remember what play they were discussing in Peter’s history class in the beginning I’m sure it has thematic significance and would be a good clue here. Can someone tell me? I don’t remember and can’t find it. They were saying a long name that began with an E maybe? Euripides? And the class discussion revolved around guilt/moral absolution of blame based on intent? I think? And what were the words the little girl wrote on the walls everywhere? They were in another language and maybe they were the grandmother working through her either to make possession easier or to give Paimon (the devil king) handholds in this realm? The mom painted them into the lil replicas too. Um lol also canNOT believe she recreated the car accident with the bloody head, that felt like WorldStar shit, but emotionally. You get it.
The son leaving the sister in the car for them to FIND, and going to bed without telling them was UNREAL. Then the petty part of me couldn’t help but notice that she did it to him later with the dad after he immolated, she didn’t warn Peter, he just found him. I felt like that was intentional even if subconsciously. That scene at the dining room table where she screams at him was so incredible and real. Toni Collette is an incredible actress. That scene and the monologue she gives at grief counseling were like a master class in emotional pitch and control and range (she has the range!!!).
I missed what the obituary notice in the beginning said, did it have any clues? I was finishing a tweet and missed it. 😉 The note the grandma left was apologizing for not being able to explain things and that she would understand and all the things she’d done would pale in comparison to the rewards so I think she did murder the husband but it was to set their family up for all of eternity with the leader of the apocalypse on Earth? That’s sweet.
Annie’s mom made her have the baby (Peter who she didn’t want) so she could have a host body, but Annie never let her near him. Then with the second child she “sunk her claws in her” immediately, and I think made her die ultimately so the spirit could possess Peter. (Lololol that the disembodied spirit of the devil preferred a male host. Is it commentary that men are the root of all evil or that even in a spirit realm independent of time and space there’s stil sexism?? We’ll never know!!!)
Also from the Wikipedia page, this is insane: “On Anzac Day in 2018, the trailer for Hereditary played before the PG-rated family film Peter Rabbit in a cinema in Innaloo, Western Australia. According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, the Hereditary preview was accidentally shown to family audiences and created a small panic in the theater. The theater was apparently full of families including ‘at least 40 children.” Lol, whoops!
Anyway, honestly I’m giving it 5 out of 5 decapitated pigeon heads, would certainly masturbate again.