Review: Believe the hype, Hereditary is the scariest horror movie in years

Being a fan of horror movies is a curious thing. We're forever wanting to intentionally get upset, disturbed and terrified, for fun.

But very few films achieve this. Once you're not a kid anymore and you've seen a few dozen scary movies, chasing that sensation of having your blood run cold and your heart stop with fear is basically a fruitless exercise.

Hereditary achieves it with aplomb.

This is a movie that wants to make you feel completely awful for two hours, and it nails it.

The strongest element of Hereditary's magic trick is expertly tapping into familial grief. It's the story of a family struggling to cope with a tragedy and then being hit with a much worse tragedy - this one presented in nauseatingly graphic detail.

Onto this supremely dreadful feeling of grief, your more typical horror movie tropes are layered, but done so with an assured level of expertise that is all the more amazing considering it's writer/director Ari Aster's debut.

As more supernatural elements are thrown in and the chaos escalates, Hereditary pulls off some truly frightening and instantly iconic scares - think the spinning head in The Exorcist, the sisters in the hallway of The Shining and the ghost crawling out of the TV in The Ring.

If you're a fan of horror, I'd recommend not watching the trailer, learning as little about the plot as possible and getting to see this in cinema ASAP. For everyone else, approach with caution - Hereditary the scariest horror movie in years and it will cause nightmares.

Five stars.

* Hereditary stars Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro. It opened in New Zealand cinemas this week.