Hereditary (2018)

You Can Always Build a Shrine To All The Terrible Things in the World.

The reports I had heard about today’s movie were extremely mixed.  It seemed that critics were in love with this movie, but the average viewer was not always on the same page.  I even heard comparisons to the movie Drive, that many critics thought was brilliant.  I, however, thought that movie was garbage, the likes of which I would never want to endure again.  And yet still I decided I would watch the movie Hereditary, written and directed by Ari Aster, and starring Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Ann Dowd.

Uhhhhhh…this is complicated.  There’s this family.  Mom Annie (Collette), dad Steve (Byrne), son Peter (Wolff), and daughter Charlie (Shapiro).  Annie’s mom dies and then creepy things start happening.  First ghosty things and then witchy things.  I don’t know, man.  It’s confusing.

So, which side did I end up on?  Did I hate the movie or love it?  …Neither.  I disliked a lot of things in this movie, but I wouldn’t call it bad.  The movie succeeded in being pretty unsettling in parts and definitely pulled off creepy, but I don’t know if I’d say it was scary either.  But as far as horror movies go, I would say that makes it successful.  Most movies rely heavily on jump scares or gore to call themselves horror movies, but there’s an art to creating an atmosphere that gives the audience an uneasy feeling, and this movie is able to pull that off.  I feel like this is the kind of movie people are going to have to watch for themselves because everyone is going to have their own reactions to it, much (as I had heard beforehand) like the movie Drive.

So that’s my review, if that’s why you came here.  But generally speaking, I wouldn’t say I’m the best place to come for thoughtful film criticism.  I mostly make jokes about things that happen in the movie and at the end, I say if I liked it or not.  But the jokes to be made about this movie are going to be mostly spoilers, so if you intend to see it, maybe come back after.  Otherwise, here we go with some spoilers:

A lot of this movie is about Toni Collette dealing with loss.  First she loses and eulogizes her mother and starts going to support groups about it where she gives a big sob story about her troublesome relationship with her mother and dealing with her loss.  I really wish that when she finished her harrowing tale the rest of the people in the group stared at her and said, “Uh…this is a group for dealing with the loss of a pet…”  But we don’t always get what we want.  For example, Annie probably didn’t want her daughter to be decapitated by a telephone pole, and the people who made the movie probably didn’t want me to laugh when it happened.  But it was kinda funny.  At least to me.

The visuals of this movie certainly aided in creating a mood.  The whole movie had a sense of isolation to it, especially since it seemed that the place where they filmed it had very strict zoning laws that required no building be built near enough to another building that it could see it.  You’ve got one building, acres of open land, and then maybe you can have another building.  I’ve never been one to say that gore makes a horror movie good, but this movie did have some good ones.  From the decapitated head of Charlie covered in ants to when Annie was sawing her head off with a wire, it was just the right amount of unpleasant to look at.

The performances are probably what a lot of this movie hinges on.  Toni Collette sure did a performance.  It wasn’t bad.  In fact, I’d probably say it was good.  Maybe even great.  But it did feel a little over the top at times.  I guess others might argue that it was right on the money though since her daughter was decapitated shortly after her mom died and a little before her husband burst into flames, so perhaps a little hysteria is called for.  I guess it could also explain some of the things she did I found nonsensical.  Not her job though.  She had that before her tragedies and I still found it inexplicable.  But who is paying this woman to make tiny, creepy, dioramas?  Is there a big market for a miniature recreation of your daughter’s untimely death?  And moreover, is there a reason for this to be such a big part of this movie?  She also seemed pretty off on her judgment of normal behavior, like when she tried to excuse her sleep-walking actions.  She acted like it was a completely common occurrence for sleep walkers to attempt to murder their children by dousing them with paint-thinner and lighting a match.  You know, as all our mothers did at one time or another.  Also, when her husband said she was scaring their son and she said, “No I am not!” … all while he was crying his eyes out because of her hysteria.  Of course, I didn’t like that boy either.  Like, he kills his sister.  It was an accident and I don’t blame him for that.  She was the dumb ass that stuck her head out the window like a dog.  But right after you killed your sister you’re just gonna drive home, park in the driveway with her torso still in the car, go up to your room and go night-night?  At least leave a Post-It note on the fridge, homie.  “Mom, killed Charlie.  Will clean it up in the morning.  Just a heads up.  Sorry, poor choice of words.”  He also accused his mom of trying to pull his head off when some ghostly hands grabbed him through his headboard of his bed.  Dude, your headboard was against the wall.  That is physically impossible.  And this was before he had the excuse of the head injury he received at school when he bashed his face into his desk.  And the school also didn’t have the excuse of a head injury of their own when they sent him home after that.  He was unconscious!  So much so that his parents had to carry his unconscious body into the house to put him in bed.  Shouldn’t he have been sent to a hospital if he was practically in a coma?

So Hereditary was a little confusing, but certainly unsettling.  Maybe even to the point where some would call it scary.  The performances chewed the scenery a bit, but I would certainly give them credit for going all out.  I’m still not entirely sure what I’d tell people about this movie.  It seems to be very polarizing and I can see why.  I wound up in the middle, thinking it to be a solid horror movie.  It wouldn’t hurt you to watch it, but I don’t think I’d call it a necessity either.  Hereditary gets “I never wanted to be your mother” out of “Hail, Paimon!”

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