Unearthing the Secrets
By Macky Macarayan
Everybody’s been talking about Hereditary, the new horror film from first-time feature length filmmaker Ari Aster, and for good reason. The film, which doesn’t rely on jump scares and familiar tropes, works on a visceral level, promising two hours of sustained unrest. Toni Collette stars as Annie, a woman who has to deal with her family’s terrifying secret, following the death of her estranged mother Ellen. There are lots of ways that Hereditary can be interpreted, so let us share some of our ramblings (spoiler alert, people):
Mental Illness Can Be Passed On
One might argue that Ellen, who is a member of a devil-worshiping cult, has her screws loose. She loved her cult more than her own children that her daughter Annie grew up with a certain detachment, or perhaps resentment. After her death, Ellen left behind not only boxes of secrets, but also a large, looming shadow over her bereaved family. Annie’s youngest, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), seems to be the most affected, or is she? Annie on the other hand becomes fixated on her miniature art, which details her family’s history.
The mothers are not alright
The film features terrible mothers, or mother figures, starting with Ellen. At the start of the film, Ellen is already dead, but the aftermath of her motherhood, or the lack of it, screams until the final frame. Annie, in turn makes some terrible life choices about how to deal with her children. Then, the seemingly good-natured neighbor, Joan (Ann Dowd), turns out to be anything but.
Grief can push you overboard
Indeed, it does. One can view the film through the context of grief, which finds Annie at her most vulnerable. She attends support groups and finds solace in strangers, because her own home isn’t exactly a welcoming one. She also manifests her unresolved issues with her mother through her art, although it can be argued that the presence of the miniature figures made things worse (at least for us who are watching the film). Annie’s fixation on contacting her dead daughter in the latter part of the film has to be the icing on the cake, a full-on camp sequence that defines the film’s overall absurdity.
The house is as dreadful as the family’s secrets
Could the hauntings be prevented had Annie’s family moved out of the house after Ellen’s death? The interiors of the Graham House are always bathed in dark, somber tones, constantly reminding us of death. There’s even an attic! Horror aficionados know that spooky stuff always lurk in attics and cellars.