Review for Hereditary
Hereditary is a psychological horror film similar to the likes of The Exorcist or the Paranormal Activity films. It is a dark mix of horror and drama from Director/Writer Ari Aster in his feature directorial debut.
Annie is an artist, who creates miniatures, has just lost her mother who she had a very fractured relationship with. Following this, she begins to see visions of her mother. It appears that her family have a history of mental illness and there is a history of death related to this in her family. The mysterious happenings start effecting her daughter and son and leads to some harrowing moments of loss and horror that will affect everyone in the family.
This film baffles me. I’m not sure whether I enjoyed it and in some ways the more I think about the film, the more I think the answer is ‘No’. The film itself starts fantastically well and the creepy mood is sustained throughout the film, but at times I felt that the film was listlessly just rambling on waiting for something to happen. The scares are few and though most are effective they also rely too heavily on jump scares. As for the ending? I don’t want to spoil it, but I feel like someone had been paying far too much attention to the convoluted backstory that the Paranormal Activity films had created.
What annoys me more about this is if I dissect the film, the various elements are fantastic with Toni Collette as Annie giving the performance of her career. Gabriel Byrne as her confused husband is solid as always, though a little underused to make any kind of impact. The film is almost stolen by the two children played by Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff. Both are amazing as daughter Charlie and son Peter and there is definitely a Carrie-feel to how they played the roles and I do wish more had been made of this.
Aster’s directing is competent, though he does rely on a lot of the obvious Horror tropes such as the sound misdirection followed by a BOO-SCARE. The use of music by Colin Stetson is fantastic and the overall feel of the film is just perfect. It is just a shame that when you get down to it, the script feels almost like a hodgepodge of every horror film trope.
Now oftentimes when I see a film that other critics have loved which I have not I have looked at other reviews to see whether I was missing something. It is odd, as most of the reviews praise the film for the mood and the unsettling experience. This is true for me. I found the film eerie and certainly not a film I left with a smile, however the ending just left me feeling so cold whereas something like The Exorcist gave me a glimmer of hope. Maybe this is my issue is that the ending left me feeling so unsatisfied with how everything was wrapped up.
The film came with some deleted scenes. I am surprised that this wasn’t added to create a ‘Director’s cut’ especially when you hear that almost an hour was cut before the film was released, but the scenes are fine, but nothing that couldn’t have been lost. The documentary ‘Making of’ is fine in general and covers most aspects of the making of the film, but it did nothing to change my mind and if I’m honest I was begging for a commentary so that Aster could at least explain the ending to me and why it had to be like that.
Hereditary is not a bad film, far from it. In some ways it is deserved of the praise it gets and certainly one of the overall scariest movies of the past few years. However, I felt the film wasn’t a satisfying watch and with a few tweaks it could have been even better.