Not even Toni Collette’s arresting performance or the film’s excellent craftsmanship can save this rather uncompelling and overrated horror-mystery.
Dir. Ari Aster
2018 | USA | Drama/Horror/Mystery | 127 mins | 2.00:1 | English
M18 (edited) for horror violence, disturbing images, language, drug use and brief graphic nudity
Cast: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Ann Dowd
Plot: After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets.
Awards: Official Selection (Sundance)
International Sales: A24
Subject Matter: Slightly Disturbing
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
(Reviewed in theatres – first published 27 Jun 2018)
With so many critics waxing lyrical about the film, it is easy to join in the chorus of glowing reviews. Some have called it the best horror movie of the year, while ‘Time Out’ even went on to declare it as “a new generation’s The Exorcist”. However, Hereditary did not work for me as much as I would have liked it to.
The new title from A24, the distributor of The Witch (2015) and It Comes at Night (2017), is a mixed bag, an overrated and overdrawn horror-mystery whose narrative takes too long to suck the viewer in, despite having one horrifying key sequence that closes the first act.
That should have made the film more riveting, but for some reason I couldn’t feel any excitement as the picture progressed, even if it had some genuine moments of dread. I suspect there had been too many ‘dead spaces’ in the film—the storytelling felt stagnant, struggling to generate enough momentum to make itself compelling.
That being said, the story—and the mythos behind it with themes of lineage, guilt and grief—is actually pretty intriguing, just that the approach and execution leave much to be desired.
The talented Australian actress, Toni Collette (of The Sixth Sense and Little Miss Sunshine fame), gives an arresting performance as Annie, the mother of a family who has to face disturbing occurrences after the older matriarch passes away.
“Who’s gonna take care of me?”
“Uh, excuse me? You don’t think I’m gonna take care of you?”
“But when you die?”
Together with her husband (who probably wished he didn’t marry into this crazy family), estranged older son and eerie younger daughter, Annie has to confront a mysterious evil that is haunting them.
Less you think that this is another run-of-the-mill haunted house movie, Ari Aster, who wrote and directed the film (also his first feature), is a decent filmmaker whose craft is top-notch, utilising horror elements to their fullest, not to mention also creating an unsettling atmosphere through its unique sound design.
But as mentioned, the storytelling doesn’t really ignite, and bereft of a truly absorbing narrative that one could emotionally or psychologically invest in, I can’t see how excellent craftsmanship and a terrific lead performance could save the film.
Hereditary feels like it is too smart for its own good, attempting to bring us to a place of harrowing revelation, thus circumventing any straightforward horror denouement. But as the end credits rolled, I found myself asking: well… so what?