Hereditary movie poster
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Hereditary
Hereditary movie poster

Hereditary Movie Review

Hereditary is being marketed as one of the scariest movies in years. Some critics are calling it downright frightening. While it’s neither of those things, it’s nonetheless a deeply unsettling and often riveting exploration of darkness.

However, if you asked my two friends who watched the movie with me, they’d tell you it’s dull, overly long and aimless.

At a little over two hours in length, Hereditary does feel long in places and could have benefited from some tightening and a few less moments of Alex Wolff sloooowwwwwllllly turning his head in terror. And it’s more in the vein of the absolutely amazing The Witch, in that writer/director Ari Aster relies heavily on his actors, the score, and a mounting sense of dread more than tactics to outright scare you. That approach is not for everyone.

Hereditary is designed to last with you long after the credits end, not make you jump out of your seat while in theaters.

The movie largely accomplishes that goal. With spot-on editing, haunting cinematography and a few twisted ideas, Hereditary is eerie as hell. It relies heavily on its unpredictably—as you sit staring at the screen, Colin Stetson’s disturbing, award-worthy score screeching in your ears, you have no idea where the movie is headed—or really, even, what the movie is about. For a long while, it’s not even obvious who the main character is (poor Gabriel Byrne is clearly not that person).

Toni Collette, whose one Oscar nomination was for The Sixth Sense, is electrifying. Her descent into near madness (or is it madness at all?) is incredible to watch, and the movie lives and breathes around her. Wolff is stellar in a much more subdued role, even though he may best be remembered for looking scared and turning his head really slowly. And Millie Shapiro’s film debut is one that will be remembered for quite some time, though a criticism of the film is that Aster doesn’t use her nearly as much as he should have.

Another criticism—as unpredictable as much of the movie is, once you figure out (or Aster reveals) what the hell is going on, Hereditary goes a direction that seemingly many horror movies have gone before. I would have loved to see the movie go any other route than the one it takes, to truly be original and present the unexpected.

Still, good horror movies don’t necessarily need to be original as much as they need to tell their story in unique, captivating ways, and Hereditary certainly does that. It leaves you on edge from start to finish, its rich atmosphere drawing you in in ways few films do. It gets under your skin and shakes your bones. Dark, brooding and unsettling, Hereditary may not be the absolutely frightening movie some claim, but it’s a well-made, superbly acted thriller that will likely be recognized as a horror classic in the years to come.

My friends would disagree. They're wrong.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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