This week I saw Hereditary, a new horror film that I’d heard very good things about. It had been compared to The Witch (one of my very favorite horror films) and was supposed to be this decade’s The Exorcist. The trailer didn’t make Hereditary look like much but with endorsements like these, how could I resist?
When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry.
I have to say I’m a fan of the direction the entire Horror genre is taking lately. Annihilation, Winchester, Insidious: The Last Key and now Hereditary – all of these are efforts to get away from the traditional jumpscare/massacre flicks and into something deeper. Not all of these were successful, it’s true, but Hereditary swings for the fences. It knew our expectations of the Horror Genre and deliberately stepped out of the expected formula. There’s not one single jump scare in the entire movie, not one. Yes, unexpected things happen and they are horrifying, but it’s not the same thing. Most of the horror is based on real life and only augmented by supernatural elements, which fit seamlessly with the horror of the character’s real lives.
The performances were amazing. Alex Wolff was apparently traumatized by the role and I can definitely see why. I’m glad he did it though, he was fantastic. Gabriel Byrne was also really good as The One Reasonable Man. Ann Dowd was great too, I loved her in The Leftovers and she brings it to Hereditary too. Mallory Bechtel was also incredible. But the best performance was Toni Collette who we watch throughout the entire film as things slowly (and, at times very quickly) unravel for her. The acting was just so strong and that was especially important in this film because it is absolutely a study in characters.
One thing that drove me crazy was the pacing. This film is sloooooow. Mostly this works in its favor but there are times when the plot seems to realize it’s behind and suddenly lurch forward. Things didn’t get really crazy until much later than I would have expected and then suddenly it was over. At the very end, I heard the girls sitting behind me: “What the fuck did I just watch?” I shared the sentiment. As the credits rolled I was bewildered by the turn of events I’d witnessed. I don’t want to give anything away, but while Hereditary was paced like The Witch, it didn’t feel the same when it was over. When I had finished watching The Witch, I knew what I had watched. After Hereditary, I wasn’t sure.
So is Hereditary worth watching? Yes. It was well made and knew what it was doing. Everything in the film was deliberately there. It moved a bit slowly for me and I didn’t really empathize with the characters so I wasn’t all that concerned from them but that’s more me than the film. There are some amazing moments and even better performances.