"Hereditary" (2018) Review
Hereditary didn't scare me that much.
I had that "creeping dread" feeling under my skin for pretty much the entire movie, but I didn't feel terrified. I'd heard a lot about Hereditary going in, especially that it's third act was knocking people flat. Maybe that knowledge raised my expectations sky high, but regardless I still liked the movie quite a bit, just didn't see why people had gone crazy about it.
And then I couldn't sleep last night because my thoughts were flooded by images of about a dozen different shots from the film and I realized I'd completely underestimated Hereditary. They say that sometimes you have to "sleep on a movie," and in this case, I'm really glad I did before writing this review because yeah, Hereditary is a real deal suspense horror film that's so masterfully shot and constructed that it crawled directly into the center of my brain without me noticing.
It is also damn near impossible to review. Maybe more than any horror film I've ever reviewed, the less you know about Hereditary, the better off you are going in. The plot setup is as follows: The Leigh family is dealing with the passing of their grandmother. She wasn't a particularly loved member of the family, so most of them are dealing with it remarkably well at first. Except for the youngest daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), who was extremely close to the grandmother. Charlie's mother, Anne (Toni Collette), is trying to deal with Charlie's increasingly odd behavior the best she can while her husband, Steve (Gabriel Byrne), and her son, Peter (Alex Wolff), go about their lives. But as more tragedies and unexplainable occurrences pile up around the family, Anne realizes there was a lot more to her grandmother than she ever realized.
That's as much as I can comfortably say about the story. While some hardcore horror fans will definitely figure out the film's long game about halfway through (there are two films I can think of that Hereditary reminds me of, but to write either title out would spoil the hell out of Hereditary), most won't see just how far the movie is willing to go in order to fulfill its own story.
There are three pillars that this movie is built on. One, acting. That might seem obvious for any good movie, but the four listed performers are phenomenal in each part, Toni Collette in particular. Two, sound design. The music is a great variation of the atmospheric drones that have become so popular in the genre, but some inspired sound design choices in the story make it even more memorable.
Three, and maybe most importantly, is the cinematography. The film's major horror sequences are usually played in extremely long and carefully coordinated takes, but what's surprising is that while the scariest sequences are always at night, there are some terrifying bits that take place in broad daylight, which is no easy task. Plus, the imagery is straight up nightmare inducing across the board. For horror fans that love to make gifs out of the genres' creepiest images, there are literally a double-digit number of shots to choose from. While a lot of them are people standing creepily in corners out of focus, they're still brutally effective, and a few of them are definitely not people standing creepily in corners out of focus.
And that's all I'm going to say about Hereditary. For hardcore fans of the genre looking for genuinely excellent slow-burn horror, this is at the top of its class. It's still worming its way through my brain right now and I have a feeling it's going to be there for a while.