Review: Toni Collette astonishing in terrifying 'Hereditary'

Ari Aster's writing and directing debut is a frightening thrill ride with an excellent performance by Toni Collette at its core

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Toni Collette stars in "Hereditary."

Toni Collette is a force of bloody nature in "Hereditary," the year's scariest, most unnerving horror thriller. Writer-director Ari Aster, in his feature film debut, delivers a chilling, dark, sadistic experience that you won't soon shake, let alone forget. But it's Collette who really gets under your skin. 

Collette has given up the goods in horror films before — she was Oscar-nominated for "The Sixth Sense" — and she deserves awards talk for her work here. She plays Annie Graham, an artist who works in miniatures whose mother has just died as the film opens. 

Her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and son Peter (Alex Wolff) aren't so much grieving as they are wondering if they should be grieving, while daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) deeply feels the loss. Annie sneaks off to a support group to vent her feelings and meets Joan ("The Handmaid's Tale's" Ann Dowd), who helps her through the process.

Bad things start happening to the Grahams, to say the very least of what "Hereditary" has up its twisted sleeve. Aster forgoes the usual jump scares and crashing music cues that make up the majority of today's horror films and digs deeper, creating an inescapable sense of unease and looming dread. He slowly tightens his grip on the audience and plays with themes such as the damnation of guilt and the chilling silence of death. 

Collette, frankly, has never been better than she is here, as a mother trying to keep herself together while fighting the demons in her head and those that have been let loose in her household. Her journey is the audience's journey in this terrifying thriller that pins you to the back of your chair and leaves you paralyzed in fear.

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Rated R for horror violence, disturbing images, language, drug use and brief graphic nudity

Running time: 127 minutes