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Hereditary (2018)

Movie poster for Hereditary

I have been watching this movie in bits and pieces over the last week or two. Having now finally gotten to the end, I wonder if I might feel differently about it had I watched the entire thing in one sitting. I think the answer is no, and frankly, I think I would have found that to be even more tedious than watching it 10-15 minutes at a time.

Given all the hype and rave reviews this film has gotten since it came out five years ago, I had fairly high hopes. Not only did it not meet those hopes, I cannot even give it a pass on a lower curve where I have stripped out the hype.

Hereditary is a dumb movie that thinks it is smart.

Ari Aster has clearly done his homework. This movie has all the “cinema” tricks—long takes, very formally constructed shots, artistic lighting, dramatic performances. The problem, though, is that none of it adds up to anything. None of the scenes feel like they are connected to one another, and none of the performances do either. Toni Collete runs manically through the whole thing like she is in a screwball comedy, while Gabriel Byrnes spends nearly the entire runtime looking like he can’t figure out why he is even in the movie. As for the two kids, they give it a good effort, but neither of their characters makes any sense at all; their dialog and performances seem to be entirely intended to convey an effect—Look! They’re weird and creepy!

I think there are parts of Hereditary that are supposed to be scary and creepy, but the scenes that did not fall completely flat for me made me laugh out loud.

There is a distinct tone and gear shift for the final act of the film, and I guess maybe this is one of the things that people like about it. The mayhem does kick up significantly, but it all felt completely disconnected to me. It was like they got to that point in the script and there was a post-it note on the page that said “And now everything goes crazy,” so they just started throwing stuff at the wall in hopes that something would stick.

Sadly, nothing does.

Recently, I heard someone say on a podcast I listen to that they are getting tired of horror movies that are metaphors for grief. I feel the same way. I think Hereditary wants to think that it has a lot to say about family trauma and the dysfunction and abuse that can be handed down from parents to children over the course of generations. I guess I can appreciate that ambition, but I think this movie fails on all levels; it has nothing coherent to say about about any of its characters, and it is too busy trying to convince us that it does to actually be a good horror movie.

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