There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
After her mother passes away, Annie (Toni Collette) feels little grief. She loved her mother, but they had grown distant over the years, and Annie knew that her mother was now at peace. Her husband (Gabriel Byrne) and her oldest child (Alex Wolff) were never close with Annie’s mother, and were not very affected by the loss. Annie’s daughter, however, does not have the lack of grief shared by the rest of the family. Charlie (Milly Shapiro) was very close with her grandmother and she is deeply saddened by the family’s loss.
In trying to cope with her loss, Annie attends a support group for grieving the loss of a loved one. One of the other members tells Annie of a do-it-yourself seance that will allow Annie to communicate with her dead family member. Annie gives it a shot, and it works, but it unleashes something dangerous upon the household. She must now find a way to rid the house of this evil before someone gets hurt, but while the evil is rising, Annie’s apparent sanity seems to be dwindling.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
The Lore (-3pts)
The Climax (-4pts)
Pro: Annie (+5pts)
The filmmakers invested a lot of screen-time to the development of this character. When we first met Annie, we assumed she was struggling to deal with the death of her mother. We also assumed she was a responsible, good, and innocent mother. While she was certainly not evil or an intentionally bad mother, she did have a dark history and a complicated relationship with both of her children. This was an extremely complex character and it was interesting to learn more about her, but it was the actress that made this character so compelling.
At times I thought she was totally sane, but at others, I thought she had lost her mind. Toni Collette danced all over the line between sanity and insanity, and she did so in a very smooth, seemingly effortless way. She brought an intensity and unpredictability to the character, and she was able to portray the character’s very complex feelings toward her children. Annie was a very loving mother, but she had her issues that her children had to witness first hand. There was a complexity and a darkness to this character, and it was fascinating to see Toni Collette bring it all to the screen.
Con: Boring (-8pts)
The biggest issue with Hereditary was its genre. This was marketed and advertised as a horror film, but there was hardly any horror. It was a character-driven drama with a bunch of horror elements thrown in at the end. However, even when the horror elements were taking place, nothing really happened. It felt like things almost happened a lot during this movie, but nothing ever did.
If you go into this movie expecting a horror, you will be bored out of your mind. The horror moments were very few and far between before the movie’s climax. If you go into this movie expecting a character drama, you will find it compelling, but the climax of the movie might be a let down. The movie was a character drama, but with a a horror finish. It felt random and meaningless and I thought it ended up failing to capitalize on either part of the story.
Pro: Charlie (+3pts)
Milly Shapiro as Charlie was absolutely captivating whenever she was on-screen. From the strange sound she made with her tongue, to the blank emotionless stare she always had, audiences will have a sense of something supernatural about this child. Then we saw her cut the head off of a dead bird using a pair of scissors and it created the feeling that this character was unpredictable, and potentially even dangerous. This movie was not good, but this character will peak the audience’s interest when she is on-screen. Unfortunately, we did not see her very much.
In some respect, this story was all about Charlie. However, at the same time, the movie did not spend much time focusing on her. Charlie was the unique gem of this movie, but the filmmakers put all their focus on Annie and Peter. Those characters were compelling, but Charlie was an enigma. Even when horror was not happening, Charlie gave the movie an unnatural and suspenseful tone. My only complaint was that the filmmakers did not take advantage of this. Charlie should have been the star of this movie, but the filmmakers gave her the back seat—see what I did there?—to less unique characters.
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Con: The Lore (-3pts)
This movie was a drama, but it used a bunch of lore to explain the supernatural aspect of the story. I had a few problems with this. The first was that it just felt generic, as it felt like a movie we have seen many times before. My second issue was that, by explaining the lore, the filmmakers removed the mystery.
A main character—a mother—experienced something supernatural, saw a medium to make sense of it, then did some research, and learned that an ancient god—basically the devil—was coming after their child—or children. I get that this was intended as a character story, but it was like the horror aspects were pulled directly from a generic horror-film recipe book. Putting the generic nature of the story aside, explaining a horror movie’s villain never goes well. These stories work best when audiences see the villain as unpredictable. We fear what we do not understand, and by telling us what the villain was and what its intentions were, the filmmakers did nothing but shine a light on the monster in the dark.
Pro: Peter (+5pts)
Peter was a surprisingly interesting character, because of what he had to suffer through. Getting into the details means spoiling a few big moments in the movie, but Peter really went on a dark ride of emotional trauma. When we met him, he was pretty unaffected by the death of his grandmother, but by going through the events of this story, he went through an insane emotional transformation that was exciting to watch. Audiences will be disgusted by his actions in some scenes, and sympathetic toward him in others, but I was impressed by Alex Wolff through all of it.
This character went to some dark places and Alex Wolff did a fantastic job at conveying that to the audience. Alex Wolff has said that he has suffered from some amount of PTSD after filming this movie and I believe it. He had to dive into his character’s darkest places and he deserves a ton of credit for hitting this character’s trauma so well. Alex Wolff’s portrayal of this A-to-Z emotional transformation was a lot of fun to watch, and while it was not enough to save the movie from its issues, he certainly deserves praise for diving into this role so deeply.
Con: The Climax (-4pts)
While I wanted to see a horror—and the climax was definitely horror—the climax just did not fit the rest of the movie. This ended up failing for a few reasons: there were random naked people, the horror felt meaningless, and there were no resolutions to the characters’ dramatic stories. The first and easiest to discuss is definitely the naked people. I do not know who made this “creative” decision, but during all the fast-paced horror in the story's climax, there were a bunch of random naked people that were just standing and smiling in the background. It was male and female, full-frontal nudity, it was all over the place, and it distracted from the tone that the filmmakers were trying to go for. It was not creepy, it was just dumb.
Then, the horror ended up feeling meaningless on top of that, mostly because it felt out-of-place. We got a whole movie of dramatic storytelling and characters that were dealing with tremendous grief. Then we got a ton of fast-paced horror crammed into the climax of the story. It felt like there were two filmmakers. The first worked on the majority of the movie and made a dark, intense character story. Then a second came in and took the movie in a completely different, horror-heavy direction. It felt very out-of-place, so it felt meaningless, not very scary, and it did not deliver a satisfying conclusion to the characters' stories.
Grade: C- (73pts)
Hereditary had a lot going for it and it had a trailer that peaked the interests of horror-film movie-goers. Too often, filmmakers of horror movies sacrifice good stories and character development in order to deliver cheap jump-scares or sometimes genuinely scary moments. For this movie, the opposite was true. While marketed as an intense horror, this movie—while intense at times—ended up being an elaborate and dramatic character story.
With Annie, Charlie, and Peter, we had great characters with great character development and great actors. While Charlie was an enigma, the character took a backseat to Peter and Annie. Unfortunately, the end of the movie did not fit with movie that the rising action had setup. The rising action was a dramatic character story—which was compelling to some viewers, but will be boring to those expecting horror—and the climax was that of a horror movie. As a result, we had horror that felt random, instead of impactful, and character stories that did not have the satisfying conclusion that audiences will be looking for. This movie had potential, but the filmmakers did not seem to know what direction they wanted to go in, so they delivered an unsatisfying movie.
Movie Beasts (author) from MA on July 03, 2018:
It is definitely worth forming your own opinion. While I thought it was imbalanced and a disappointingly boring horror movie, some critics did enjoy it.
Thank you for your feedback and comment,
Movie Whisperer from Moreton Bay, Queensland on July 02, 2018:
I still need to see this so I’ll reserve judgement of your dismal rating. Great review as always.