“Every family tree hides a secret.”
Being hailed as one of the scariest movies of the year is some serious hype to live up to, and I’m afraid moviegoers are going to be pissed off.
Ever since Hereditary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2018, critics have compared Hereditary to iconic films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining and labeled director Ari Aster an auteur.
This is how you fail to meet expectations; when you compare modern movies to the universal classics, mindsets are made…especially when it comes to horror movies. Audiences want jump-scares, and you’re just not going to get that with Hereditary.
On the surface, the plot of this movie is simple. When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry.
Here are five things that I learned about Hereditary before and after viewing.
1. Director Ari Aster’s Feature Debut
I’m usually always excited to see a new director sink his teeth into Hollywood and leave such a colossal impression like Ari Aster has this year. Breaking ground in the horror genre is no easy feat, and this guy seemed to do it effortlessly.
“I wanted to make a serious meditation on grief and trauma that gradually curdles into a nightmare – the way that life can feel like a nightmare when disaster strikes. The true significance of the title shouldn’t dawn on the viewer until the end of the film, but suffice it to say that Hereditary is concerned primarily with the insidiousness of family ties. Over the course of the film, it becomes increasingly clear that this family has no free will; their fate has been passed down to them, and it’s an inheritance that they have no hope of shaking.” Ari Aster via Film Comment
2. Domestic Drama vs. Horror Movie
Let’s get one thing straight about this movie so you’re not left entirely disappointed: this is not jump-scare horror, but rather a slow-burn horror that creeps progressively as the movie unfolds. It’s all about the dread of what is to come aided by some serious wtf domestic drama and eerie atmosphere.
Ari Aster has admit that he doesn’t consider himself a horror director; this is a movie about the inner lives of its central characters, the unfortunate grief they endure and the discomforting sympathy we have for these characters by the end. As seen by the trailer, Annie (Toni Collette) realizes very early in the movie that her mother (who is recently deceased) had a secret life, may have been an evil witch and that mental illness runs in her family (and may not have escaped her).
“There are so few horror films that for me live up to what the genre can do. That epidemic has given the genre a bad name. It’s one of those genres that, if its virtues are being effectively exploited, can be just the most amazing experience in a theater. When they work, I get very excited.” Ari Aster via Film Comment
3. The Cast is Clutch
While the entire cast all bring their A-game to the table, it’s Toni Collette who carries the film from start to finish. She’s one of the greatest, and least talked about, actresses working today who can play almost any role from any genre. Remember when she was nominated for an Oscar for The Sixth Sense? Well, I think her time has come again for another nomination if not a potential win. She. Delivers.
“I’m not interested in gratuitous fear, and this is a deep, complex story. I think the scariest thing about the movie, being someone who’s optimistic, is that it is a revelatory awakening for this woman. And all these unsettled feelings that she didn’t understand her whole life suddenly, it dawns on her and she starts to put it together. Usually you associate that kind of moment in your life with some kind of progressive, positive change. And this is further entrapment and no hope whatsoever. As well as complete betrayal. That’s the scariest thing: there is no hope.” Toni Collette via /Film
4. Marketing is Misleading
I think one of the greatest misconceptions about marketing/labeling a movie under the “horror” genre is that audiences will immediately expect to be frightened, unsettled and left shitting their pants. Have we not learned yet that this is not always the case, and that marketing can be misleading? This is perhaps why I usually don’t always watch the trailers, have expectations or read reviews for movies like this one, especially when hype is so glaring.
Being labeled the “scariest movie ever made” is some serious hype from production company A24, and the D+ CinemaScore rating comes as no surprise result from audiences. Of course moviegoers are going to be disappointed when the bar is set too unrealistically high.
5. WTF Ending [No Spoilers]
I’m going to as vague and brief about the ending as possible here. All I can say is that the “twist” or “surprise” at the end left me somewhat underwhelmed. Because of the massive plot inclusions in the beginning of the movie (and especially in the trailers!), the ending came as no surprise. It was bizarre, weird and unsettling, but it didn’t leave me with the “A-ha!” moment I was expecting to have. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily for me. For moviegoers it probably will be though.
Love it or hate it? Let me know what you think!