A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hereditary is an extremely dark, creepy horror movie with ghosts, seances, death, burned bodies, severed heads, a deadly car accident, maggots, flies, ants, blood, and scenes of rage, screaming, and panic. Characters have fits and bang their head on the nearest hard surface. A teen character smokes pot on more than one occasion and attends a party with teen drinking. Weird, ghostly apparitions sometimes appear naked (full-frontal, both male and female), but only briefly. Occasional language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "hell." It's quite intense -- and very scary -- and it's all just a bit more serious and intense than the usual horror movie, making it hard to recommend for any but the most mature viewers. Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, and Alex Wolff co-star.
What's the story?
In HEREDITARY, artist Annie Graham (Toni Collette) and her family -- husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff), and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) -- get ready for Annie's mother's funeral. Not long afterward, strange things start happening. Annie sees apparitions in the house, she begins sleepwalking again, and she wonders whether her family's troubled past is about to catch up with her. Meanwhile, Peter goes to a party and is forced to bring Charlie along. When she accidentally eats nuts and triggers her allergy, she's rushed to the hospital ... but a terrible car accident kills her instead. Then Peter starts seeing and hearing strange things, too. At a grief counseling group meeting, Annie meets Joan (Ann Dowd), who offers to teach Annie a way to contact Charlie via the spirit world. Unfortunately, the séance causes things to get even stranger.
Is it any good?
This clammy, creeping horror movie is deeply rooted in classics from the 1960s, '70s, and beyond, but it also builds on them; it's deliberate and severe, and it's not afraid to cross a line or two. The feature writing and directing debut of Ari Aster, Hereditary draws from movies as far back as Rosemary's Baby and as recent as Poltergeist, with elements like ghosts, cults, and resurrections, but it uses them for inspiration only. Aster isn't interested in merely referencing. He goes deeper into things that are unsettling and uncontrollable. His camera continually draws back for a wider, more cathedral-like picture, allowing for more dire possibilities in each frame. Thanks to this -- and to Annie's freaky miniature models -- nightmares and so-called reality blur easily.
The movie's music and sound design (listen for that tongue click) are likewise chilling, recalling the throbbing, humming soundtracks of David Lynch's films but still effective. Yet it's the performances that finally sell Hereditary, notably Collette in a truly tormented turn. Annie is unsure of what's going on or what's real; she's stuck in a loop of shock and panic. Wolff is also appealing playing a more relatable type of terror, sitting at his desk at school, sleep-drained and wide-eyed. Unfortunately, Byrne is stuck in one of those nonbeliever roles, asked to grow angrily impatient at all the supernatural "nonsense" going on, but the movie doesn't suffer for it. Hereditary is a deeply unnerving experience, one that hard-core horror fans will eagerly drink in.
Talk to your kids about ...
How scary is the movie? What's most scary about it? What's the appeal of scary movies?
Have you ever had a hard time believing someone who's trying to tell you something or explain themselves? What makes a story believable? What makes a person believable or unbelievable?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.