Release Date: June 8, 2018
Studio: PalmStar Media
Director: Ari Aster
Release Format: Theatrical
Running Time: 127 minutes
The horror movie genre is pretty wide open. To be considered horror, you really only need an ominous tone and a jump scare or two. Hereditary barely manages that bare minimum. The story is filled with cliches and nonsense, all set at a pace even a snail would be annoyed with.
Hereditary centers around the Graham family. It opens up on the funeral for Annie’s mother. It is very somber, and sets the stage for lots of long drawn out scenes to come throughout the film. We meet Annie’s daughter Charlie, son Peter, and husband Steve as the movie begins to take it’s shape. The problem quickly becomes, what the hell kind of shape is this?
Whoever edited this movie seems to have forgotten to take out about 35 minutes of emptiness. The first half of the movie is one incredibly long and pointless cruise through these peoples lives. Annie is a miniatures artist, she crafts impressive and intricate dioramas- but outside of one, maybe two scenes, it’s hard for me to say why this detail is even in this movie and why it is focused on so much. Steve is just sort of there, we don’t learn much about him and his lines are mostly filler. Charlie seems to have some social awkwardness, hates her mother for some reason, and spends a whole lot of time just staring off into space. We see Peter smoke some weed, sit around looking at a girl, and lay in his room. Besides what happens during and after the party early on in the movie, we see this movie spinning it’s wheels in place going absolutely nowhere 15 mph under the speed limit.
It’s not to say that NOTHING happens, some slightly interesting things do occur. We have some hints at Annie’s mother being involved in something sinister, and we get a bunch of stuff that SEEMS like it will be foreshadowing, but it’s really just conversations and scenes that are never revisited or referenced again.
This film is desperate to be deep and meaningful. At the same time ,it beats you over the head with it’s final act “revelation” a long time before you get to it. It also puts on a master class in lazy storytelling. Annie goes to a group therapy session, she has had some trauma in her life and she finds comfort in that setting. This group therapy scene quickly becomes akin to a wall of text, as Annie proceeds to give exposition on her mother and her family for awhile; as everyone in the group, as well as everyone in the audience, just sits there and tries to pay attention.
The cliches never stop coming in Hereditary. Evil spirits lurking just out of sight of the characters? Check. Main character quickly pages through an old book which conveniently explains everything? Check. Person who is deathly allergic to nuts finds the only thing in a 10 mile radius with nuts inside of it? Check.
The shining lights in this “horror” movie are the performances by Toni Collette and Alex Wolff- Annie and Peter respectively. Both actors give incredibly good performances that are full of real emotion. They create the only tension found in the film, through sheer acting skill alone. Throughout Hereditary you will feel confused and bored, but these two actors give some moments of clarity and entertainment that prevent this movie from sliding as far into mediocrity as it surely would have otherwise.
Once you make it past the slogg that was the first three quarters of this movie you get to see what it has all been leading to. This is where you get to know the meaning of the word “disappointment”. Annie basically explains the ending of the movie, in a frantic plea to her husband to help her in a task she thinks she can’t complete. After that it’s really just dragging out the ending, we already know whats going to happen; so much so that by the very end, when there is a voice over explaining the exact same thing you already knew a half hour ago, you are just ready to get out of the theater and see the light of day again.
Hereditary is the first feature length outing for writer/director Ari Aster, and it shows. He wants this movie to be so much more than it is. Hereditary can’t find the right balance a film like this should model. The foreshadowing is either too heavy handed or too vague to notice. The plot is either too slow and drags or glosses over important facts and scenes too quickly. There are some creepy feelings to have here, but due only to jump scares and poorly lit scenes. Here’s hoping that the problems with this film aren’t hereditary, or that they at least skip a generation, and Ari Asters’ next film doesn’t share these characteristics.
Verdict: June’s horror movie of the month, Hereditary, is one that sets its sights on being a lot more than it can handle. It falls well short in too many places, and even some amazing acting can’t save it.
- Strong acting from Toni Collette and Alex Wolff
- Way too long
- Tries too hard to be deep and ends up confusing
- Lots of plot points are dropped or pointless
- Cheap scares with no weight behind them
- Beats you over the head with the ending, basically spoon feeding it to you several times