Is 'Hereditary' the New Cult Horror?
Hereditary is a new horror movie that just came out recently in cinemas and has been widely acclaimed and lauded as the new Exorcist, the 1973 cult film that has become synonymous with the paranormal horror genre. However, as much as it pains me to say, I have yet to see that film. However, the aim of this review is not to make this connection, but to simply offer my own insight about the movie. As such, let's get into it.
The movie tells the story of a seemingly normal family. We have a caring father, an attentive mother, a slightly disconnected teenage boy, and a little girl. However, the family idyll is quickly broken by the death of the grandmother, and with her death, the plot starts rolling. The frail veil of this happy facade quickly comes undone, thread by thread.
The story surprisingly differs from the usual American horror movie tropes. The main characters aren't scantily dressed blond teenage bombshells and muscleheaded jocks. There is no one-by-one mass murder of a camp, this is not that kind of movie. There is no marathon running from the monster, constant screaming, and whatnot. There is atmosphere, mystery, and unease, which are the core of any good horror movie. They do a great job of keeping the plot going either way, where the happenings are possible in our own reality or in the distorted hellish nightmare that we usually expect from a horror film. There are no jump scare festivals, just a very heavy air everywhere with breaks in the tension called in at the right times. Most of the horror is based on grotesque imagery and gore without showing you a biology session like in the Saw movies.
What I really liked was how the title really collected the whole of the movie. Hereditary, that which can be inherited, the legacy of the past. In this sense, this a binding to the family, a chain, which they are trying to break away from as best as they can. And this feeling is shown in every little part.
First, there is the camera settings and the scenes. In almost every scene, the camera is completely motionless, just like the actors. If they do move, it's usually very slow, like they were held back by something. This gives a nice contrast to other parts when there is more movement, heightening their effect considerably. The same is true for the soundtrack as well. There is almost none. There are a few background tunes here and there, but most of the movie is void from any vocal disturbance with the actors staying silent for several seconds themselves on multiple occasions. There are also very few locations. We have the school and the house as the recurring ones, everything else is only shown momentarily, and it shortly all leads back to the house again. I really like this take on the claustrophobic house cliche, where the characters are given this false sense of freedom, while they are actually being controlled without them knowing.
What really surprised me, was the story. It was actually quite well done, with a few nice twists shoved in towards the end. It's nice to see that there are still scary films that try to focus the scares towards the story, instead of creating an alibi to serve as the reason for the scares.
Now, I talked a lot about the good points, so let me throw in some negatives as well. While the horror generally works well, there are a few occasions where it devolves into very stupid, almost comedy like gags. Several people (including me) have laughed at various points in the movie because of the absurdity of the situations. I understand that they were necessary for the psychological basis of the characters, but they could have been executed better. We could have also done with the boy closing his mouth sometimes since it appeared he had some pathological need to keep it a few inches open for whatever reason. Maybe he couldn't breathe through his nose, who knows.
Verdict: Calling it the new Exorcist seems a bit farfetched to me, but there is no denying that the movie is really good, albeit not without its flaws. For those who are fans of horror, this is a must-watch since it is one of the better ones to come out this year.
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