Critic Consensus: Hereditary uses its classic setup as the framework for a harrowing, uncommonly unsettling horror film whose cold touch lingers long beyond the closing credits.
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Critic Reviews for Hereditary
Hereditary feels like an endless drawing out of that queasy, shocking, falling dream sensation, as the ground beneath the Graham family, and the viewer, crumbles.
As alleged horror films go, this one is about as scary as the Bowery Boys in Spooks Run Wild.
It has the nerve to suggest that the social unit is, by definition, self-menacing, and that the home is no longer a sanctuary but a crumbling fortress, under siege from within.
Audience Reviews for Hereditary
Hereditary has built up a great roaring buzz from film festivals and its oblique marketing. Numerous critics are hailing writer/director Ari Aster's debut film as one of the scariest movies of a generation. The studio, A24, which has built up a fine reputation for art movies and genre fare, is releasing it. Except A24 has some trouble when it comes to its horror thrillers. Last year's It Comes at Night was similarly beloved by critics yet audiences generally disliked it, angered by the misleading marketing that framed it as a supernatural horror (there was none, no titular "it" to come at night). I wonder if A24 learned their lesson and that's why the trailers and ads for Hereditary have been intentionally hard to follow. After watching Hereditary and feeling let down, I wonder if A24 is in for another disparity between critics and audiences. This is a sloppy, unfocused film with little sense of structure, pacing, or payoffs. It's a movie of moments and from there your mileage will vary. Annie (Toni Collette) and Steve (Gabriel Byrne) are ordinary middle-class parents living with two teenage children, the older Peter (Alex Wolff) and the younger Charlie (Millie Shapiro), a girl given to peculiar habits. Following a tragic accident, the family is struggling to come to terms with their loss and their new lives. Annie seeks out comfort from a group meeting, and that's where she meets Joan (the great Ann Dowd) who shows her how to contact the spirits of the dead via a handy incantation. From there, Annie tries to establish a connection to the realm beyond and possibly unleashes a spirit targeting her family. With the rapturous critical acclaim that Hereditary has garnered, I was expecting something far more engrossing and far less sloppy. Structurally, this movie is a mess. It feels very directionless from a story standpoint, like the movie is wading around and blindly looking for an escape route into the next scene. Rarely will scenes have lasting impact or connect to the following scene; you could literally rearrange the majority of the scenes in this movie and not affect the understanding whatsoever. That's, simply put, poor screenwriting when your scenes lack a more pertinent purpose other than contributing to an ongoing atmosphere of paranoia (more on that later). I'm struggling to make broader connections or add lasting thematic relevance to much of the plotting, and that's because it feels so convoluted and repetitious for so long, until Aster decides it's time to throw the audience the most minimal of lifelines. There is a moment late in the second act where a character finds a convenient exposition dump by looking through a photo album and a book that is literally highlighted. That at least explains the intent of the final act, but even as that plays out, by the end it's still mostly confounding. The film ends with another exposition dump, this time as voice over, and I got to thinking that if it wasn't for these two offhand moments you would have no idea why anything is happening. I had a friend whose girlfriend had been bugging him for Hereditary spoilers for months, so I carefully explained the movie to them as precisely as I could. By the end, he told me, "I still don't get it." Yeah, I didn't get it either and I was actively trying. There is a type of horror fan that will lap up Hereditary, namely the kind that places the creation of dread and atmosphere and memorable moments above all else. If you're a gushing fan of David Lynch movies or Dario Argento and their sense of strange dream logic, you'll be more ready to prize the sum rather than the whole of Hereditary. The aesthetics are pleasurable thanks to crafty production designer Grace Yun (First Reformed) and the moody photography from Pawel Pogorzelski (Tragedy Girls) that maximizes the space and draws out the anticipatory dread. There are effective moments where I gasped or squirmed, but there were also moments where I wanted to laugh. The key term is "moments." Without a structure, sense of development, and attachment to the characters and their lives, Hereditary left me chasing fleeting entertainment. Now when it comes to horror moments, I'll again admit that everyone's mileage will vary. Some people will watch Hereditary and be scared stupid. Others will shrug. That's a deeply personal response. I can look at a movie like A Quiet Place and point to its intricate structure and execution to explain why its suspense was so affecting and satisfying. With Hereditary, because all it supplies is moments, I can't explain why something will work or won't for a person. Maybe you have a thing against headless corpses. Maybe you have a thing for jump scares (there are more than a few). Maybe you have a thing for invisible girls making clicking noises with their tongues. Then again maybe you'd enjoy a narrative that gave you a better reason to care and that organically built meaningful scares through tangible circumstances. If you can hang onto the final nightmarish act, that's when Hereditary is at its best, finally picking up a sense of momentum and finality. The first forty-five minutes of this movie more closely resemble something like Manchester by the Sea, a family unit becoming undone through grief and guilt, simmering grievances just under the surface. It's well acted, especially by Toni Collette (Krampus) as a mother barely escaping the pull of her boiling anger at her son and the universe as a whole. She gets a few quality moments to blow up and it feels like years of painful buildup coming out. The awkward family interaction is chilly but missing greater nuance. It has marked elements that should bring nuance and engagement (Personal Tragedy, Mental Instability, Blame, Guilt, Obsession), but with Aster's undercooked screenplay those elements never coalesce. This is a movie experience that is never more than the sum of its spooky parts. Byrne (The 33) is essentially just there, and the fact that the 68-year-old actor has two teenage children is a little hard to swallow. Wolff (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) does a fine job of showing his deteriorating mind late in the movie. The problem is that these characters just aren't that interesting, so when the supernatural acceleration creeps in, there's already a ceiling as far as how much we, the audience, will care about what befalls them. What are the stakes if you don't understand what's happening and don't genuinely care about the central characters? My pal Ben Bailey chided me after seeing Hereditary that I was trying to do the movie's work for it by looking for deeper connections and foreshadowing clues. Is there some greater meaning for the headless women motif? Is there a larger reason why the dollhouse God imagery is prevalent? Is there a reason, after finding out about the haunting, that the family still leaves their beleaguered son alone? Is there a mental illness connection or is it all a manifestation of hysterical grief? The English teacher discusses the Greek tragedy of Iphigenia (see: a better movie following this model, 2017's Killing of a Sacred Deer) and whether being predestined for sacrifice is more tragic than choosing your own self-destruction, and is that a glimpse at thematic relevance in a way that seems almost half-hearted? The problem with a long, incoherent story built upon a heaping helping of creepy imagery and atmosphere is that it can often fall into the lazy trap where the filmmaker will just throw up their hands as if to say, "Well, it's up for interpretation." I don't mind a challenging movie experience (I was on the side that enjoyed, if that's the correct term, Darren Aronofsky's mother!). I can appreciate a movie that's trying to be ambiguous and ambitious. However, the pieces have to be there to form a larger, more meaningful picture to analyze and discuss, and Hereditary just doesn't offer those pieces. It's an eerie horror movie with its moments of intrigue and dread but it's also poorly developed, too convoluted, and prone to lazy writing and characterization. I'll highlight it for you, Hereditary-style: if you're looking for more than atmosphere and tricks, seek another horror movie. Nate's Grade: C
Creepy and though it's long, doesn't drag and holds your attention. Cast are great in this.
Movies like Hereditary don't come around often enough, and that's sadly due to the fact that audiences usually don't flock out to see films that look abstract. Horror films have been on a very big high over the last few years, giving us thrilling films like Get Out or Don't Breathe, or more recently, the fantastic movie A Quiet Place. The latest wide release in this genre comes in the form of A24's Hereditary. This studio is known for releasing superb content but mostly goes under the radar. While this film surely isn't for everyone, the sheer originality behind it makes it well worth seeing in theatres. From its atmosphere to its creepy imagery, to the downright unnerving performances, here's why Heredity should be on your list of thrillers/horrors to see. The plot of this film itself is a spoiler, so I'm going to dance around that a bit here. The Grandmother of the Graham family has passed away and they're slowly trying to recover from that tragic event when surprises and secrets about their lineage come to light. That's about as simple as the plot can be put without having seen the film. The originality of the film comes in the form of the premise that has to be undisclosed until you see the film for yourself. I thought I knew what this film was going to be like when watching the trailers, but trust me when I say it's not and you're either going to love or hate the routes that this movie takes. For a film like this that relies so heavily on a family aspect, the performances need to be top notch in order to hold my interest. Toni Collette has been an actress that I've kept my eye on over the years, as I was positive she would eventually blow me away. Hereditary is absolutely that performance in my opinion. Yes, Milly Shapiro is great and Alex Wolff has his moments, but Collette acts circles around everyone throughout this film. She brought me to tears, had me gasping for air when she was monologuing, and frankly had my jaw on the floor with how realistic her performance was from beginning to end. Never breaking characters and truly making me believe I was watching a troubled mother, she sucked me right into the atmosphere of the movie. I've been hearing nothing but praise for this movie and while it definitely deserves to be talked about, I definitely had some issues with it. At times it does feel like a generic horror flick in the way that it presents certain spiritual elements or supernatural storylines, but if you can suspend your disbelief or just happen to believe in certain things, then you may be fine. I was easily able to attach myself to what was happening, but it felt like a tonal shift at times. On top of that, this movie asks a lot of you throughout the final act, which I absolutely loved, but I didn't feel quite satisfied. There is a lot of effort put into this film in terms of its cinematography and dark themes (which I have to commend), but I find myself continuously questioning certain things long after my viewing of the film. Normally I would love that, but the more I think about it just makes me wish for a slightly different ending. Hereditary is a very ambitious movie in the way that the story continues to surprise you and I personally loved watching every second of it, but looking back on the movie as a whole, I just find myself wondering if I'll ever want to watch it again. There are some very disturbing images spread throughout the film and I genuinely had goosebumps on multiple occasions, but where the film ends up throughout the conclusion left me slightly unsatisfied. This is a fantastically constructed film from start to finish, but it's not for everyone and I can see many people finding aspects of this film humorous if they're not buying into it. For myself, it's a great movie that deserves to be seen, but be ready for gruesome images, supernatural turns, and some bizarre and surprising moments.
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