A "cult-classic" in every sense of the word?
Normally, I'm not one to go see horror movies in the theatre. For me, horror movies are best watched under a blanket at home with other people who can appreciate the more inane qualities of the genre and are fine with breaking movie theatre conventions of not talking during the movie. However, my friend had coupons and wanted to go see it, so I caved in despite my typical cinema tendencies of only going to see Marvel superhero movies.
Horror movies are typically wasted on me in general, as I'm not easily scared by things. This is the main reason I don't watch horror at the movies. Why would I pay for something, and not be scared at the same time? I also don't count being startled as the same thing as being scared, so jump scares are also out. In my opinion, they're just a cheap trick used mainly for trailers to make a horror movie seem better than it is. I have still yet to be scared more than I have been by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which convinced young, adolescent me that the reborn form of Lord Voldemort could pop out of my closet at any time during the night and kill me.
However, I'm digressing. Simply put, this movie was weird. And not weird in a paranormal way. I mean it was that as well, but it's a horror movie so that's kind of what I signed up for. I mean weird in a narrative sense. As in, things didn't make sense. As in, it seemed that one of their narrative techniques was not properly explaining things. It wasn't a terrible movie, but it was by no means great either. So the real purpose of this review I suppose is to help me muddle through my opinions on this.
Without going into spoilers, the main story of this movie begins with the main character Annie's mother dying. Grandma Ellen is described as the typical tottering old woman suffering from dementia, strained family relations and all. However, she is also told to be incredibly secretive and an isolationist, hence the surprise expressed at the number of guests attending the funeral. At this point, it seems that the focus of the movie is going to be the grandmother haunting the family (Spoiler Alert: It's not). After the funeral, the family goes about their business as normal, with Annie's daughter, Charlie, being the only one really struggling with grandma's death. Slight oddities ensue and it seems that the focus is shifting to Charlie as the main character (Spoiler alert again: It's not). A long portion of the movie elapses, so long to the point that I started questioning whether this was actually a horror movie because NOTHING scary happens. It's a bit of a pacing issue that really knocks this movie down a few pegs for me. The weird meter is then turned to 11 for about the last quarter of the movie. Normally, this is a good thing. I like weird. However, weird when it is never explained at all leaves me feeling like elements were just shoehorned in for the sake of padding out the movie. Like I said before, weird because of paranormal, but also weird narratively. I'm not going to explain the ending because that is basically the cardinal sin of spoilers, but I will tell you that you probably won't see the ending coming, which is kind of like an anti-spoiler in a way.
In my opinion, the acting in this movie was decent, except for a few instances. Characters were believable for the most part. However, the element of the acting that wasn't so believable was probably the most important part—the screaming. It's not that they didn't properly express fear, it's just that it was a bit much at times. Seeing Alex Wolff scream-crying was almost funny it was so over the top. And then we have the face drop of the century, with Toni Collette shrieking her head off, and then going completely deadpan within a split second—another moment which had me holding in laughter.
There was nothing over the top crazy going on in terms of locations in this film, so there's not much to criticize in terms of set choice. The movie was a fan of the misty morning light shining through a window—great for pretty Instagram shots, doesn't really fit the mood for a horror movie. This slight issue is balanced out though by some other really well-made choices, such as easily turning a children's treehouse into a demonically 'atmosphered' symbol of things to come by simply filling it with an intense red light. Overall, I enjoyed the overall look of the film. I also appreciate the choice of not making the entire movie completely dark during the spooky bits. It's always easier to be scared when you can see what's scaring you.
In conclusion, Hereditary was a collection of good concepts and ideas that didn't quite mesh together properly. When it comes to horror, I will always pick the psychological mind-warp or cult expose over a gory, slasher flick. However, how much I enjoy it depends on everything making sense and having that "Oh s***" moment at the climax. Hereditary didn't do that. I was left with more questions than answers as there were too many things included that weren't properly explained. Seemingly unimportant elements were relegated to being shown to the audience through say, a short line in a book, and then never brought up again until it turns out that they are quite a big plot point. To reiterate what I said at the beginning, I didn't hate this movie, but I was so confused by the end that I can't say that I liked it either. Confusion is good, so long as it's remedied by the end, and by the end, it felt like overall confusion and shock is what the film was going for.
Final Score: 6/10