Review: Hereditary

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The hunt for horror films that are absorbing enough to stir the right mix of atmosphere, fascination, disgust and tension usually proves as fruitful as tracking unicorn prints through a boggy wood. Some recent efforts, however, have seen an increase in game for those who stalk the forests of dread. Of the most interesting of these have been those which have made the effort to push occult subjects to the fore in ways that seem neither contrived nor sensationalised. A Dark Song and The VVitch, for instance, have represented some of the high points of these efforts, with the former giving an alternative rendering of the Abramelin Operation in a situation soaked in claustrophobic desperation, while the latter presents an equally suffocating portrait of a family with little to separate them from the horrors of loss, the wild woods and the Devil save for the reprieve that their slow deaths from starvation may offer. Combining both of these elements, as well as the much-cited comparisons with The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, is Hereditary. As a point of interest to those who may be inspired by such things, it comes among the increasing number of films to feature the spirits of the Goetia of Solomon as their airy-bodied antagonists. However, while the depictions of Volac, Baal and Agares in The Conjuring films, The Rite and The Crucifixion are somewhat bland and generic, Hereditary’s treatment of the demon-king Paimon (see this post for more) pays attention to the detail behind the name and the whole project reaps the rewards of it. With that rare attention comes a visceral, unsettling series of horrors and tragedies that make this a truly fascinating watching experience. The build-up is slow and at time tortuous, but the payment received when the pact is finally signed and sealed in blood makes for the kind of movie that those who seek something genuine and original from their horror will return to with devotion.