As early as January of this year, I began to hear whispers about this new horror movie “sensation,” Hereditary. I then not only found out that it was an A24 film (probably my favorite production company), but that it was starring one of my favorite actors, from the Naked Brothers Band, Alex Wolff. If that wasn’t enough to get me excited, once it had released, it began to receive loads of positive reviews, from both audiences and critics. This all culminated into a large hype around the movie for me. I could not have been more excited. And I thought “Why not make a review over the new movie everyone is talking about? Should be fun.”
Despite my excitement for the movie, I made an attempt to be as unbiased as possible. I do not consider myself as well-versed in the horror genre as I am in many others, but I believe that the same general principles make a good or great movie, no matter the genre. So was it good? Was it bad? Was it okay? Is it as scary as it’s made out to be. Do I know what I’m talking about? Hopefully we’ll see.
*Also keep in mind that these are my initial thoughts. I’m going off of all I remember/am comfortable discussing after one viewing session a couple days ago. Some things may seem broad or vague, and that’s most likely the reason. I may continue a more in depth analysis after a second or third viewing.
Overall Impressions (No Spoilers)
Firstly, the characters and performances are incredibly done. Toni Collette’s portrayal of Ellen is outstanding in my opinion, and that effort/ability is mirrored throughout the great cast. The characters go through constant development throughout the film, as events unfold, just like normal people would. The reasoning behind a lot of their actions seem reasonable (which is hard to find in a horror film, honestly), and they’re believable.
The story was overall intriguing and engaging. While it’s not super clear what it’s about towards the beginning, when it slowly develops you definitely become entranced in the story telling, and want to know what’s coming next. I constantly found myself looking forward to what was about to develop, when normally I just want whatever’s evil to die so the horror movie can be over. Previously, there were only one or two horror films where I cared about the characters and the overall story. This movie shattered that, and I think this is the most involved I have ever been, compared to similar films.
Next, the direction and cinematography was OUTSTANDING. In my opinion, these two things are AT LEAST as important as story and characters in horror films. The way things are shot, the overall visuals, and the cuts are incredibly key to how scary the movie is, and how they want you to feel. A lot of the discomfort I was feeling was due to how the film was shot, rather than what was happening directly in the film, and that’s really important/impressive.
I was surprised at how “scary” the movie was. Several people were calling it “This generation’s Exorcist,” which I thought was a very high level of expectation to set (and it was), but it was scarier than I had originally anticipated. I was incredibly uncomfortable for almost the entirety of the film, and was consistently on the edge of my seat. While I don’t believe there were many large scares, I think the tone of the movie was incredibly dark and ominous, making the audience on edge for most of it.
Finally, I really appreciated that there were actual messages and themes within the film, but not necessarily blatant and obvious ones (like The First Purge, come on). There was a high level of realism to the movie which is also key in creating a scary/creepy vibe, and I genuinely felt deeply involved with some of the things happening.
Firstly, the pace was incredibly slow. This applies to both the story, and a lot of the scariness. To me, this isn’t a big negative but I heard several people complaining outside of the theater that there wasn’t enough “action” in the beginning, so I understand that some people don’t appreciate that. I think it was due to them making an attempt at character development, which I can appreciate but it seems most others do not.
While I was uncomfortable for most of the film, one or two incidents that caused this were just incredibly gruesome. I don’t have a large problem with gore, but I have more appreciation for feelings that are created by traditional storytelling or good camera-work, and less appreciation for slasher-like shock horror. I don’t particularly enjoy movies like Saw for a reason. I can stomach it, but it’s not an enjoyable type of discomfort.
Finally, the way the story developed was really weird, and it seems like you have to pay a lot of attention throughout the entire film to understand what’s going on towards the end. This is partially why I want to view it another time. I didn’t understand the ending entirely, because there are portions that are moving incredibly quickly, and I am willing to bet that a lot of people feel the same way. I don’t think the story (ending in particular) was bad, poorly done, or anything of the sort, but I think many will be left confused after it’s finished. This also kind of undercuts a lot of the messages and values presented in the film, because instead of being left with those, they are left with large thoughts on “What the hell just happened?” This was a pretty minor thing, but is something that could have been handled a little better.
Verdict: How Was It?
I think it is an incredibly good an enjoyable film for anyone who is a connoisseur of film, and horror movies specifically. I think it’s engaging, and intriguing, with several interesting and believable characters, with good messages behind them. I didn’t think it was as scary as people make it out to be, but fear in films can be incredibly subjective, and maybe it’s much worse for other people. I would say this is a well-made film that’s worth a watch, just maybe stay away from comparisons to horror classics.