Hereditary is advertised as “the scariest movie of the year”, a supernatural horror movie that my cowardly ass went to go and watch for the benefit of everyone else. Written and directed by Ari Aster in his debut film, it follows a small family after the death of the mysterious grandmother as they begin to be haunted. This review will contain a spoiler from within the first half hour of the film and will be discussed from mid-way through this review onwards; I can’t write around it, it’s a big moment.
The movie has some fantastic cinematography, and I loved it. Aster plays with interesting angles and really uses the miniatures the mother Annie (Toni Collette Little Miss Sunshine) creates throughout the film to his advantage. There are some genuinely amazing close-ups, especially of the older brother Peter (Alex Wolff Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Wolff knocks it out of the park in these close-ups, and there is a significant focus on him throughout the film. He is able to hold these close-ups for minutes at a time, and he is really something else in them. He is able to capture your attention and hold it, combined with the way Peter is lit in these moments and the reflections in his eyes is incredible, that image will definitely stick with you once you leave the cinema.
The other acting performances were variable, Wolff and Collette were the real stars of the film and commanded the close-ups and did a fantastic job of showing the breakdown of their mental states. Collette gives the performance of her career and is so real, and at points, so genuinely devastating that you feel for what she is going through. The father Steven (Gabriel Byrne In Treatment) on the other hand was a let-down. His role seemed somewhat unnecessary and he never really captured your attention in the same way Wolff and Collette did. Milly Shapiro (in her debut film role) as the younger sister Charlie was ok really. Spoiler Alert, as her character dies in the first half hour of the film, she couldn’t shine as much as she should have. The trailer presents the curse following Charlie specifically, so for her to die in the first half hour was quite a twist, but it also meant that the movie began to drag after her death.
This drag was probably the worst part of the film. I expected a supernatural horror, but it only becomes that in the climax. The rest of the movie is more like a drama with the occasional jump scare, (using that term loosely) it dragged and wasn’t that interesting. With Charlie dying, the movie stalled and only picked up again when all the plot points began coming together. I also think that there was way too much foreshadowing. Some characters would nonchalantly say something, and literally ten minutes later that thing would happen. With the symbolism attached, a lot of the film was spelt out in big letters for the audience. There was a good moment or two which I didn’t expect really, but it began to get predictable by the end.
As I’ve established throughout this review, I’m not great with horror films, but in saying this, I have to say, I honestly didn’t get scared until that last half hour. The climax was great and everything that you expect out of something being called the ‘scariest movie of the year’. Everything that had been building up throughout the previous hour and a half came to a head, and it was terrific. There was tension, great cinematography and creepy music, and alongside the great acting, it was definitely the best part. But I think if you are braver than I am (isn’t hard), you won’t be scared. My movie date Lisa (shout out) who loves horror movies said as the credits rolled, ‘yeah it was good, but not scary’, and the lady in the row in front of us agreed. Honestly, I agree too; there was so much foreshadowing throughout the film that even I sort of guessed the end, I only was a scared because I’m a big wuss, I slept real good that night too which just shows you.
Hereditary I think would be better advertised as a supernatural drama/thriller. It’s not as scary as I was anticipating, but with some great acting performances and fantastic cinematography, it pulled through despite the drag before the climax. While I enjoyed the last half hour immensely and got a bit spooked, if you’re looking for horror like It, you’ll be let down. The real moral of the movie is, don’t have a mysterious grandmother die on you; you’ll get haunted by some things, and drive safe kids.