Reviewed by: Francisco Gomez Jr.
Who is SATAN, the enemy of God and all people? Answer
Is Satan a real person that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer
Demons in the Bible
Occult rituals, symbols and references in this film
Purposely calling for demons
What is the Occult? Answer
How can we know there’s a God? Answer
What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer
If God made everything, who made God? Answer
About the fall of mankind to worldwide depravity
Is Jesus Christ God? Answer
What is “THE FEAR OF THE LORD”? and Why is it important? Answer
What is HUMILITY? and WHY is it very important to be humble? Answer
What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer
Toni Collette … Annie Graham
Gabriel Byrne … Steve Graham
Alex Wolff … Peter Graham
Milly Shapiro … Charlie Graham
Ann Dowd … Joan
Mallory Bechtel … Bridget
Zachary Arthur … Hispanic Boy
Mark Blockovich … Support Group Member
Jake Brown … Brendan
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Kevin Scott Frakes
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Deep spiritual darkness, evil, demonic attack, occultism, rejection of God, and worship of Satan
“All like pawns in this hopeless horrible machine”
“Hereditary” is the directorial debut of Ari Aster and follows the character of Annie Graham played by scream queen Toni Collette. Annie is an artist that builds miniature scale models of objects and buildings. Annie’s mother recently passed away and is grieved especially hard by her daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). The family has a “hereditary” problem with mental illness that has caused incidents that have worried her son Peter (Alex Wolf) and husband Steve (Gabriel Bryne).
Annie begins to uncover family secrets as life changing events happen all around them. Malevolent forces are at work, and the film is set to explore destiny and choice. The family has a fate to fulfill but will they chose to rebel?
The film is produced by A24 studios, a film studio known for its well-produced films that are notorious for its content. Let’s talk about moviemaking quality before content of concern—of which there is plenty for believers to be wary of.
The movie explores its themes in spectacular fashion. Ari Aster puts on a masterclass of filmmaking—even when it is his first feature film. From the first shot the themes and style of the film are established with creativity, and it only continues throughout. Aster understands that it is not what you show but rather what you do not show that terrifies audiences—the fear of what is lurking at the corners of the screen is what moves the movie forward.
The film’s tension winds and winds as it plants seeds of mystery throughout, until it sporadically stops to release the tension and answer a few questions. The cycle of repeated tension and release starts slow, but gets faster and faster as the film goes on, before the film ends in its shocking climax. This due to as much as Aster’s directing as well as his well-written screenplay. The cinematography of Pawel Pogorzelski is immaculate. The sound mixing and editing work perfectly with the eerie score.
Academy Award® nominated actress Toni Collette may have earned herself another nomination for best actress with her performance. Her descent into despair is the sail of the movie. Alex Wolff has his breakthrough in this film with a scene that is genuinely heartbreaking in which he evokes shock. Their acting is essential to making the film work. Most horror films fail to be “scary” because characters often act in ways that are unrealistic and allows the audience to disassociate from the film. However, the realistic performances make one believe this is a normal family who react realistically to the escalating horrors.
The film follows Annie as she struggles with guilt and fear. Her family has a history of mental illness, and she feels guilty that Charlie is different from other kids. Annie’s own anxiety and sleep walking has put the family in danger at times.
The film uses mental illness as a metaphor for what we fear, and sometimes it’s ourselves. The constant use of mirrors and windows in the film reflects that often times it is not the supernatural that can be perverse, but ourselves as people. The audience fears the terrifying things that lurk at the corners of the cinema screen, as the characters fear what is lurking in the corners of their mind.
Annie tries to make amends and prevent catastrophe, but she has a hard time with the fact that no one wants to “admit anything they have done.” A crucial step in seeking forgiveness and healing from God is admittance and confession of our sins.
The characters sometimes suffer peril because they avoid choice and responsibility to one another. Annie at one point exclaims that everything would be easier if someone would just say “I’m sorry.” As Christians, we should try to live in peace with everyone, and to share the love and compassion of Christ—especially when others are suffering difficult times.
What is the FALL OF MAN and why is human depravity so pervasive? Answer
Who is SATAN, the enemy of God and all people? Answer
Is Satan A REAL PERSON that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer
The film also has plenty to say about hopelessness. Annie manipulates her miniature models of people and houses as much as she feels she is being manipulated. They feel like “pawns in this hopeless horrible machine.” They feel like they have little freedom, and as such have little in the way of hope. There is nothing to be done, and there is nothing they can do. Why? Because as much as Annie tries, she has difficulty discovering truth. She feels her family has a hereditary disposition to keeping secrets and telling lies. Annie is not alone, we all pass on lies and sin from generation to generation.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” —John 8:32
As humans, we heave a natural tendency to sin, but God as provided a way to freedom.
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VIOLENCE: Very Heavy. The violence is not abundant for a rated R film, but when it makes appearances it is very explicit. ***Potential Spoilers*** Almost all characters are eventually beheaded: two die from decapitation and another two are beheaded after death. A character is burned alive. There are other instances of violence such as banging of heads on a wall and desk. There are attempted murders through choking. The most disturbing instance is the lingering of the camera on a bloodied decapitated head. ***END SPOILER***
NUDITY/SEX: There is not any content dealing with actual sexual relationships. Nudity is not abundant throughout and only makes its appearance in the end in terrifying fashion, but when it does it is explicit. There is full frontal nudity of men and women, with male genitalia being visible in a few instances.
DRUGS/ALCOHOL: Heavy. Marijuana is used as a motif and symbol in the film. Therefore, it is present throughout the film.
OCCULT: Extreme. While its occult elements are moderate at first, as the film reaches its climax it is revealed that the mystery uncovered was ***SPOILER*** a plan to bring a demon described as a prince of hell back into the world. ***END SPOILER*** There is also contact with the dead through spiritual mediums. There are three momentary possessions. The occult elements is the film’s biggest concern. The occult actions in the film are not glorified and ultimately present the family’s downfall, but Christians (and anyone for that manner) will be made extremely uncomfortable. Allowing your eyes to see such wickedness is something that anyone should be wary of, especially those who are sensitive or a have a background in that environment.
PROFANITY OR VULGAR LANGUAGE: Very Heavy. There are a couple of uses of strong language such as “d*mn,” “sh*t,” “d*ck,” and others. The most prevalent word is “f*ck,” with over 15 uses. Profanity is heavy, with the Lord’s name taken in vain more than 15 times—“J*sus Chr*st,”“J*sus,” “G*d d*mn,” “Oh my G*d” (6), “Oh G*d” (3), “Oh for G*d’s sakes,” and “h*ll” (2).
In terms of moviemaking quality, this is the way horror movies are meant to be made and seen. Ari Aster directs the film like a veteran director in his debut effort. The screenplay masterfully inverts hero’s journey tropes to keep audiences on its toes. It walks the line of suspenseful arthouse and mainstream terror perfectly. The set design, sound, mixing, acting, and cinematography all work to compelling effect. I expect that “Hereditary” years down the road will be mentioned whenever future film students discuss the greatest horror films of all time in their classrooms.
However, as followers of Christ, this film is clearly not conducive to spiritual growth. It features vile occult themes that are certainly best to stay away from. It presents a strong risk in affecting our walk with God. Despite its quality, I strongly recommend that Christians skip this film.
Learn about DISCERNMENT—wisdom in making personal entertainment decisions
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.