Hereditary is the most well-crafted, disturbing horror film to hit the screens in years, with a mesmerising performance from Toni Collette as a mother on the brink.

Hereditary is one of those horror films that it’s best to see without reading too much about. The trailer for the movie is suggestive without being too revealing, and as such its incumbent upon film reviewers to follow suit. For that reason, if you’re planning to see what’s been touted as the singular most terrifying film of the past few years, then don’t read on.

Toni Collette is breathtaking as Annie, a mother on the brink of collapse after the passing away of her estranged mother. Although she lived with the family towards the end, the relationship between the matriarch of the Graham family and her daughter is palpably tense, even though the former is dead. We know little about her, or Annie’s upbringing until around half way through the film when Annie reveals her traumatic past to a self-help group. It’s there that she meets a fellow griever, who introduces her to the art of seance.

Charlie Millie Shapiro Hereditary review

Milly Shapiro plays Charlie, a little girl with a troubled mind in Hereditary. Photo: A24/PalmStar Media

In a breakthrough performance, Milly Shapiro is captivating as Annie’s troubled daughter, Charlie. A strange little girl, Charlie has a tick that’ll likely be played out in school playgrounds by kids much too young to watch Hereditary, in the same way that the noise from The Grudge, plagued many of ours. Charlie has a knack for moulding creepy objects out of found materials, and chopping the heads off dead birds. No doubt this is a child-like reinterpretation of the macabre miniature carvings that her mother creates as an artist. Shapiro is joined by Alex Wolff as Peter, her absent-minded, mardy older brother who has never quite forgiven his mother for a near accident she caused whilst sleepwalking. Arguably the most shocking scene in the film is played out between the siblings, in what feels like a five minute stretch that never ends.

Charlie Peter Annie Hereditary review Toni Collette Millie Shapiro

Peter and Charlie (Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro) with Annie Graham (Toni Collette) in Hereditary. Photo: A24/PalmStar Media

The crafting of Hereditary is what singles it out form horror films of the past few years. It follows in the steps of Sinister in succeeding to create a palpable sense of tension from the calmest of moments. It avoids cliche by building to a climax that never comes through Hitchcockian strings from Colin Stetson, before slapping you in the face when you least expect it.  At its climactic end, it snowballs into full-blown demonic horror, borrowing from The Witch and It Follows in its use of vulgar nudity, and resembling Paco Plaza’s Ouija board horror, Veronica

It is by no means short on traditional horror stereotypes; what’s that in the corner of the room, did you really just see what you think you saw? Yet there’s few jumps, although when they do come they are heart-stopping moments, and little in the blood and gore stakes to match the slasher films we’ve grown used to being popped out by studios once a year.

Gripping from start to finish, this is a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat until its final moments in which audiences are invited to lose their minds and find themselves as lost as the characters on screen. With powerful performances from Toni Collette and Milly Shapiro, Ari Aster has captured a family torn apart by grief, and succumbed to the dark power of the supernatural. Hereditary is a masterclass in dread.

Hereditary is released in the UK on 15th June. It is now showing as part of the Sundance Film Festival, London. 

★★★★★