Ari Aster’s Hereditary is the epitome of high-art horror. During its run, critics described the film as a gleaming example of the horror comeback. While the film features some gruesome imagery, two other cinematic elements drive its creepiness. The cinematography and pacing give the film a genuinely horrific quality that tests your nerves.
A Creepy Camera
On the surface, Hereditary is not a scary film with its amount of horror imagery. Classic films like The Exorcist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, or Halloween have it beat. However, as you watch the film, there is something eerie about every frame. The camera moves in a very particular way. It has a distinct style that makes it feel like a character in the film. There are beautifully composed stationary shots, but the moving shots are more telling. As a scene progresses, the camera creeps and slowly pans to reveal the action. Instead of relying on quick editing and jump scares, the horror excruciatingly reveals itself.
Another benefit of the slow camerawork is the ability to reveal the richness of the frame. We see how dense the set design is from the very first scene of the film. There is a range of different props, symbols, and other visual motifs. It would take several viewings to uncover each little piece. The slow and smooth camerawork allows the audience to digest some of the film’s visual language. It gives the film great re-watch value.
A Slow Chill
The camera is a compliment to the film’s overall pacing. Hereditary is not fast-paced. It does not try to scare you out of your seat. Instead, it slowly tries to break you down until it completely envelopes you in fear. The film is comfortable in its own skin in that regard. It slowly brings the audience to the main climax of the film and crashes to a finish. You are left feeling dropped off somewhere wholly unexpected.
Overall, Hereditary an artistic horror film that will slowly carve a pit in your stomach.