I don't scare easy. On a hot summer day, I'll gladly go see a horror flick solo. I'm also not particularly squeamish. Saw, Hostel, Final Destination — no gory movie moment has sickened me past the point of enjoyment. That's perhaps both a testament to (and a warning about) Ari Aster's feature debut Hereditary. Or, rather, one of the grossest, most disturbing scene in Hereditary.
First, I have to give the film major props for covertly hiding this particular moment within its advertising. While the trailer did spoil some things that I'd rather it didn't (like, say, how Ann Dowd's Joan was connected to the central family) I didn't see this twist coming at all — which made the moment it happened all the more horrific.
Onto that moment, which, obviously, includes major spoilers. Read at your own risk!
Early on in the movie, it's established that the youngest and weirdest Graham child, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), is allergic to nuts. She routinely snacks on candy bars, which sends her parents Annie (Toni Collette) and Steve (Gabriel Byrne) into a mild panic when they realize that they don't have her EpiPen.
Me, thinking I'm a smart, savvy cinema dweller, assumes that if something is going to happen to Charlie, it will be peanut-related. And it is, sort of.
Her brother, Peter (Alex Wolff) is all but forced to take Charlie to a party, where the only thing she can think to do while Peter smokes weed with his crush is help herself to some chocolate cake. (Same, girl.) Unfortunately, the cake has nuts in it, and Charlie's throat starts to close. Peter, being the decent brother that he is, rushes Charlie to the hospital.
Annnnnnd that's when, in the car, the most horrible moment of the entire film takes place. Charlie, struggling for air, sticks her head out the speeding car window as Peter's car gears up to nearly 80 miles per hour. Unfortunately, it's at that moment that the car passes a telephone pole... and Charlie gets decapitated in one brutal moment.
Me (apparently not the savvy movie-goer I assumed I was), literally whispered to my friends: "Is she okay???"
Charlie was most certainly not okay, and a traumatized Peter drives home with a headless Charlie in his backseat. The next morning, when Charlie's body is discovered by a screaming Annie, the film cuts to her head, in the middle of the road... collecting ants and flies in the sun.
This is actually just one of several disturbing moments in Hereditary, and just slightly more disturbing than a scene in which Annie decapitates herself. Still, for being the moment that proved director Aster did not care about how comfortable you are, and for offing what seemed to be a major character so early on, Charlie's inadvertent decapitation takes the cake.
But man, could this whole thing have been avoided if Charlie just did not take that cake.