Hereditary Review (2018)

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Hereditary Review (2018)

Horrorific content by adrian on June 09th, 2018 | Movie Review | A24, Cursed, Supernatural, Cult, Drama, Psychological

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It’s about a family, seemingly cursed after the passing of their mysterious grandmother.

Hereditary was directed by  Ari Aster (who had previously only directed short films) and stars  Toni Collette (from The Sixth Sense),  Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff.

Every family tree hides a secret.

Hereditary Review

Hereditary, like A Quiet Place, was heavily marketed and received endless buzz. They made trailer releases into events and people ate it up. And as soon as all the early reviews started rolling out it was already being deemed the scariest movie since The Exorcist.

I admit, I was sold on the trailer as well. There was a lot of mystery and depth, the potential for a good horror was undoubtedly there.

But I'm a natural skeptic when it comes to manufactured buzz.

Mother! received similar praise. The 100% on Rotten Tomatoes had everyone running around super excited even before even seeing it. Of course, it flopped to a 50% once everyone outside of critic circles watched it. We were all duped by their marketing team. What we thought was going to be a psychological horror turned out to be a bible story. Of course, A Quiet Place had similar buzz that turned out to be worthy, it was a gripping horror that still sports an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Part of my skepticism for Hereditary was also due to the fact that it's an A24 movie, which has put out its fair share of fake horrors (dramas backed by screechy violins).

So I sat down a skeptic, hoping to be surprised.

And I was. Kind of.

Hereditary is a slow burn, a very slow burn. Slower than The Babadook.

Nothing really happens for well over an hour (except for one significant plot twist). It completely lost me during the first 2/3. I thought I had been duped, once again, into watching a family drama with screechy violins. But this isn't to say it was bad. The character development, the story, the cinematography, the sound design, the framing, everything was stunning.

Hereditary just wasn't really a "horror" movie.

Until it was.

It went from 0-100 in the blink of an eye.

All of the many small details that were oh-so-slowly presented throughout the first two acts setup the third brilliantly.

I found myself analyzing the entire Graham family, certain I had figured them all out. I felt sure that all the supernatural stuff was just theatrical misdirection for common mental illness. Grandma Graham definitely had some kind of personality disorder, Annie (the mom) was surely a manic depressive. Annie mentions at a point how her brother who committed suicide was schizophrenic. Baby Graham (Charlie, the daughter) was clearly living on another planet. This plus the "hereditary" name all seemed to make sense. All I had to do now was wait out the rest of the movie so I could swear off all future A24 flicks.

But I was wrong, at least partly. Mental illness could be an aspect of this story, but it could not explain any of the crazy dark madness that goes down near the end.

This is a spoiler-free zone, so let's just say Hereditary is a lot like The Witch, another A24 movie that creates fear through slow building tension and dread (while at the same time creating ambiguity as to what exactly is happening). So if you liked The Witch you'll probably love Hereditary. If you need a clearer picture, Hereditary also has some Before I Wake going on (grieving process), gives a nod to The Shining (familial madness) and shares some amazing slow motion supernatural effects with Pulse.

But the fact that this movie is similar to others, and that the plot isn't anything we haven't seen before, does not make it look or feel recycled. On the contrary, the way the story is told, the cinematography, the countless important details all combine to make it so immersive that you don't really pick up on any similarities until long after you've had time to digest everything that just happened.

I've seen the term "masterpiece of horror" popping up in reference to Hereditary. I don't personally feel it's at that level, primarily because much of the impact comes from dramatic performances that could easily stand on their own outside of the genre. And the darkness and chaos that gives Hereditary its teeth is amplified because you have to sit and wait so long for something to happen. Granted, this is a powerful tool in horror, but when it's the only tool being used...

Worth Watching?

Overall, I really liked Hereditary and will be watching it again, there's simply too many subtle, yet important, details to catch the first time through. But even after only watching it once, I can already say it's one of my top 25 horrors of all time.

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