Hereditary Review: A Slow But Frightening Burn

I went into Hereditary with very high expectations. I try to never do that, but I just get too excited for new horror movies. And I’m usually disappointed because of it, and this time was no different. I know, I know. I was supposed to love Hereditary. But I just didn’t. I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

It was just such a slow, slow burn. And I got really confused about a couple of things because it was a bit of a messy movie. But at the end of the day, I was frightened multiple times, and if a movie can do that to someone as desensitized as me, it did its job.

Hereditary tells the story of Annie (Toni Collette), a mother of two who just lost her own mother. Annie isn’t as upset about losing her mother as she should be, though, because the two were estranged at one point because of her mother’s secrecy and (possible) mental illness (was she really ill, you’ll be asking yourself by the movie’s end). Annie’s daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) is acting strange, so we know something is up right away. After another tragedy rocks the family, things go from bad to worse. Annie then meets a woman (Ann Dowd) at a support group for grieving family members, who teaches her how to conjure the spirits of lost loved ones. From then on, it’s one scary twist and turn after another. I don’t want to say anything more, because this is a very hard movie to explain without spilling a ton of spoilers.

What the movie does very well is its artistry and scare tactics. It’s very atmospheric and dark and brooding. There’s not a bright shot in the movie, and it leaves you always anticipating the next creepy occurrence, which happens more often than not.

What the movie lacks in is cohesiveness. Is it a ghost story or is it a demonic possession story? Is it a creepy kid movie or is it a psychological thriller? Or is this just another case of inherited mental illness? Who can tell. I would have liked to have known for sure what I was watching, but it just bounced around to all of these things or maybe none of these things. I’m going to watch again when it is released on Blu-Ray just to see if I get a better feel of the movie and what it was trying to achieve.

I do have to take a minute to talk about Collette’s performance, though. She was remarkable as Annie. She’s always been a pretty underrated actress, so I was happy to see her get to flex in this movie. It’s been far too long since The Sixth Sense. Her emotional breakdowns were convincing and her downward spiral near the end was chilling. She alone makes the movie worth watching.

I feel like I’m doing something wrong by writing a less than glowing review of a movie that everyone loved. Oh well, won’t be the first time I don’t agree with the masses. Again, I liked the movie. And I especially liked the last 30 minutes or so, but so much of the movie was just a slow buildup to the ending.

  • Hereditary
  • Rated: R
  • Starring: Toni Colette, Gabriel Byrne, Ann Dowd, Milly Shapiro
  • Director: Ari Aster
  • Gimme Gore Grade: B+


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