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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ari Aster|
|Written by||Ari Aster|
|Music by||Colin Stetson|
|Box office||$80.2 million|
Hereditary is a 2018 American horror tragedy film written and directed by Ari Aster, in his feature film directorial debut. It stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Gabriel Byrne as a family haunted by a mysterious presence after the death of their secretive grandmother.
Hereditary premiered on January 21, 2018, in the Midnight section at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and was theatrically released in the United States on June 8, 2018. It was a critical and commercial success, making over $80 million on a $10 million budget to become A24's highest-grossing film worldwide.
Annie Graham is a miniatures artist who lives in Utah with her husband, Steve; their 16-year-old son, Peter; and their eccentric and reserved 13-year-old daughter, Charlie. At the funeral of her secretive mother, Ellen Leigh, Annie delivers a eulogy explaining their fraught relationship and her mother's extremely private life. A week later, Steve is informed that Ellen's grave has been desecrated, while Annie thinks she sees an apparition of Ellen in her workshop. At a support group for the bereaved, Annie reveals that the rest of her family suffered from mental illness that resulted in their deaths and how Ellen was a significant figure in raising Charlie.
To attend a party, Peter lies that he is going to a school event, and Annie forces him to take Charlie with him. Unsupervised, Charlie eats cake containing nuts, which she is allergic to, and falls into anaphylactic shock. As Peter drives her to a hospital, Charlie leans out of the window for air. Peter swerves to avoid a dead deer and Charlie is decapitated by a telephone pole. In shock, Peter silently drives home and leaves his sister's corpse in the car for their mother to discover the next morning. The family grieves following Charlie's funeral, heightening tensions between Annie and Peter and causing Annie to behave coldly towards Steve. Peter is plagued by Charlie's presence around the house.
Annie is befriended by a support group member, Joan. Annie tells her she used to sleepwalk and recounts an incident in which she woke up in Peter's bedroom to find herself, Peter, and Charlie covered in paint thinner with a lit match in her hand. Joan teaches Annie to perform a séance to communicate with Charlie. Annie convinces her family to attempt the séance. Objects begin to move and break, terrifying Peter, and Charlie seemingly possesses Annie until Steve douses her with water. Annie suspects that Charlie's spirit has become malevolent. She throws Charlie's sketchbook into the fireplace but her sleeve also begins to burn. She retrieves it and heads to Joan's apartment for advice but Joan is nowhere to be found.
Annie notices that Joan's welcome mat resembles her mother's craft work. She goes through her mother's possessions and finds a photo album linking Joan to Ellen, and a book with information about a demon named Paimon, who wishes to inhabit the body of a male host. In the attic, Annie finds Ellen's decapitated body with strange symbols on the wall written in blood. At school, Peter slams his head against his desk, breaking his nose and is brought home. Annie shows Steve her mother's body and the sketchbook. Annie begs Steve to burn the sketchbook so she can sacrifice herself to stop the haunting, but Steve assumes she has gone mad, accusing her of desecrating Ellen's grave herself. When Annie throws the book into the fireplace, Steve bursts into flames, as Annie is immediately possessed.
Peter awakens to find his father's body. Annie chases him into the attic, which is decorated with occult imagery. Levitating, a possessed Annie beheads herself with a piano wire as naked coven members look on. Peter jumps out of the window. As he lies on the ground, a light enters his body and he wakes up. He follows Annie's levitating corpse into Charlie's treehouse, where Charlie's crowned, severed head rests atop a mannequin. Joan, other coven members and the headless corpses of his mother and grandmother bow to him. Joan, addressing him as Charlie, swears an oath to him as Paimon, stating that he has been liberated from his female host, and is free to rule over them.
- Toni Collette as Annie Graham, a miniatures artist.
- Gabriel Byrne as Steve Graham, a psychiatrist and Annie’s husband.
- Alex Wolff as Peter Graham, Annie and Steve's 16-year-old son.
- Milly Shapiro as Charlie Graham, Annie and Steve's 13-year-old daughter.
- Ann Dowd as Joan, a support group member who befriends Annie.
- Mallory Bechtel as Bridget, Peter's schoolmate and love interest.
Ari Aster has an uncredited voice cameo as Annie's boss, who calls to offer support after the tragedy she has been experiencing.
Background and development
Writer-director Ari Aster embarked on a career in the film industry while a student at the American Film Institute; he scripted and directed two provocative short films, The Strange Thing About the Johnsons and Munchausen, bringing him under the scope of PalmStar (company). Aster originally pitched Hereditary as a family tragedy that "curdles into a nightmare," careful not to call it a horror film outright. A fan of domestic dramas, Aster incorporated themes of the genre into his script, envisioning a film rooted in family dynamics, trauma, and grief; Carrie and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover were works Aster specified as influences on Hereditary. He interpreted the film as two halves which are "completely inextricable from each other": "It begins as a family tragedy and then continues down that path, but gradually curdles into a full-bore nightmare".
The script reflects a real-life incident from 2004 in Marietta, Georgia, in which John Kemper Hutcherson accidentally decapitated his childhood friend and passenger, Frankie Brohm, on a telephone pole, after the latter had leaned his head from the vehicle to relieve the symptoms of his inebriation. Hutcherson then drove home with Brohm's headless corpse in the car and fell asleep, until a passerby, walking with his toddler, noticed Brohm's body still in the truck the next morning and notified authorities.
Toni Collette was one of the first actresses Aster sought for the role of Annie Graham, a miniaturist and the matriarch of the Graham family. Though Collette was reluctant to work on a horror film, the script's grounded approach to the genre convinced her to commit to the project: "He [Aster] just really understood the dynamics in the family, has such an understanding of what it is to be human, what it is to experience loss".
Gabriel Byrne agreed to play the family's patriarch Steve; Alex Wolff, who previously collaborated with Byrne in the HBO program In Treatment was cast as the Grahams' son Peter. Cast in her cinema debut, 14-year-old Broadway theatre actress Milly Shapiro, winner of a Tony Honor for her performance in Matilda the Musical, earned the role of the daughter Charlie. After watching Shapiro's audition, Aster was immediately relieved "'cause I knew the chances were slim that I would find somebody who would be right", having left Charlie's personality more ambiguous than other characters in the script. Ann Dowd portrays grieving mother Joan, who convinces Annie of her ability to contact the dead.
The film began shooting in February 2017 in Utah. The exteriors of the Graham family house and the tree house were shot in Summit County, Utah, and the cemetery scene was filmed at Larkin Sunset Gardens in Sandy, Utah. The school scenes were shot at West High School and Utah State Fairpark, but all other interiors (including both versions of the treehouse) were built from scratch on a sound stage. Since each of the rooms was built on a stage, walls could be removed to shoot scenes at a much greater distance than a practical location would allow, creating the dollhouse aesthetic of the film.
Aster said that during filming, "Alex Wolff told me not to say the name of William Shakespeare's Scottish play out loud because of some superstitious theater legend. I smugly announced the name, and then one of our lights burst during the shooting of the following scene."
Hereditary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2018. The trailer for the film was released on January 30, 2018. 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".
Hereditary grossed $44.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $36.2 million in other countries, for a total worldwide gross of $80.2 million, against a production budget of $10 million.
In the United States and Canada, Hereditary was released alongside Ocean's 8 and Hotel Artemis, and was originally projected to gross $5–9 million in its opening weekend, similar to the debuts of previous A24 horror films The Witch ($8.8 million in 2016) and It Comes at Night ($6 million in 2017). It was also the widest-ever release for an A24 film with 2,964 theaters, besting the 2,553 of It Comes at Night. After making $5.2 million on its first day, including $1.3 million from Thursday night previews, weekend estimates were increased to $12 million. It went on to debut to $13.6 million, finishing fourth at the box office, behind Ocean's 8, Solo: A Star Wars Story and Deadpool 2, and marking the best-ever opening for an A24 title. In its second weekend the film dropped just 49.5% to $6.9 million (compared to the 60–70% fall many horror films see in their sophomore frame), finishing sixth. By July 29, 2018 the film had grossed $80 million worldwide, passing Lady Bird ($78.5 million) to become A24's highest-grossing film worldwide.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 89% based on 368 reviews, and an average rating of 8.28/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Hereditary uses its classic setup as the framework for a harrowing, uncommonly unsettling horror film whose cold touch lingers long beyond the closing credits." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 49 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars and called it the scariest movie of 2018, saying "it's Collette, giving the performance of her career, who takes us inside Annie's breakdown in flesh and spirit and shatters what's left of our nerves. Her tour de force bristles with provocations that for sure will keep you up nights. But first, you'll scream your bloody head off." For The A.V. Club, A.A. Dowd gave the film an A−, stating that, "In its seriousness and hair-raising craftsmanship, Hereditary belongs to a proud genre lineage, a legacy that stretches back to the towering touchstones of American horror, unholy prestige-zeitgeist classics like The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby. Remarkably, it's a first feature, the auspicious debut of writer-director Ari Aster, whose acclaimed, disturbing short films were all leading, like a tunnel into the underworld, to this bleak vision." Common Sense Media gave the film four out of five stars and advised that it was suitable for viewers aged 17 or older.
Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "D+" on an A+ to F scale. Some publications noted the critics-to-audience discrepancy, comparing it to Drive, The Witch, Mother! and It Comes at Night, all of which were critically acclaimed but failed to impress mainstream moviegoers.
|2019||AACTA International Awards||Best Actress - International||Toni Collette||Nominated|
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists||Bravest Performance||Toni Collette||Nominated|
|2018||Boston Society of Film Critics||Best New Filmmaker||Ari Aster||Runner-up|
|Chicago Film Critics Association Awards||Best Actress||Toni Collette||Won|
|Most Promising Filmmaker||Ari Aster||Won|
|2019||Critics' Choice Movie Awards||Best Actress||Toni Collette||Nominated|
|Best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie||Hereditary||Nominated|
|2018||Detroit Film Critics Society Awards||Best Actress||Toni Collette||Won|
|2019||Fangoria Chainsaw Awards||Best Wide Release||Hereditary||Won|
|Best Director||Ari Aster||Won|
|Best Actress||Toni Collette||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||Alex Wolff||Won|
|Best Supporting Actress||Milly Shapiro||Nominated|
|Best Screenplay||Ari Aster||Won|
|Best Score||Colin Stetson||Nominated|
|Best Kill||"Charlie Meets Telephone Pole"||Won|
|2018||Golden Trailer Awards||Best Horror||Hereditary||Nominated|
|Most Original Trailer||Hereditary||Nominated|
|Gotham Awards||Best Actress||Toni Collette||Won|
|Breakthrough Director||Ari Aster||Nominated|
|2019||Independent Spirit Awards||Best Female Lead||Toni Collette||Nominated|
|Best First Feature||Ari Aster, Kevin Frakes, Lars Knudsen and Buddy Patrick||Nominated|
|2018||Los Angeles Film Critics Association||Best Actress||Toni Collette||Runner-up|
|Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival||Narcisse Award for Best Feature Film||Hereditary||Nominated|
|St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association||Best Actress||Toni Collette||Won|
|Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards||Best Actress||Toni Collette||Nominated|
|Best Youth Performance||Milly Shapiro||Nominated|
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