Hereditary

Hereditary ★★★½

Movies 2018 - 123. Hereditary (2018; written and directed by Ari Aster)

🌮🌮🌮 1/2 (3 1/2 tacos)

After their matriarch dies, a family is haunted by grief. This review won’t really win me any new fans, and probably get a handful of people really iffy on my opinions from now on. Ari Aster’s debut film is a competent, dark film that works best when it creates a vast sense of dread in its audience. This is most successful when allowing the characters time and space to deal with their grief. It is hard thing to deal with the loss of a loved one, and the emotions that come up can stir some very dark feelings. Toni Collette does a masterful job of conveying this. Dealing with loss and its repercussions is kind of what drives her from scene to scene, and she spends most of the film in muted devastation or hysterical shock. Her performance is on a whole different level, really going for broke. It is not too surprising that this film did a little bit of a number on her. All of the actors do great work here. Gabriel Byrne plays a supporting role as the father who has to hold the family together in the midst of all the chaos. The children, played by Alex Wolff and Molly Shapiro, are equally sympathetic and creepy. It is a well-acted movie with a solid premise. To talk about the things about the movie that bother me would be to spoil the film. I can’t do that, so I will try to talk in as vague of terms as I can. The story moves along at a slow-pace, deliberately building tension as it goes along, utilizing uncomfortable camerawork, some disturbing visuals, and an eerie score and sound design. You can really feel the tension ramp up as the movie nears its conclusion. And then, for me, the film sullies all of its hard work by going batshit nuts in the final twenty or so minutes. I don’t mind the shock ending when it is effective. Some slow-burn thrillers pay off with wild endings that still convey the right tone and allow their characters to reach the stories rightful conclusion. For some reason with Hereditary, it just didn’t work. Maybe it was because the things that happen during the first portion of the movie generate tension by what we aren’t shown, or by things we’re shown in small doses at just the right time — after the characters have already encountered and reacted to them. In the final act of Hereditary, we see too much and what it is exactly doesn’t feel right. Not in that disconcerting, uncomfortable way, but in a way that doesn’t quite fit the rest of the film. It feels false and that there may have been other ways the ending could have wrapped everything up. I have been thinking about the film all day, and I continue to relive my disappointment with the ending. I can’t change what exists so I have to judge it on what is there. For that reason, Hereditary didn’t quite live up to the hype. It was almost there, but that ending caused me to disconnect from the story. Other people have responded quite well to this film and its ending. I feel like I must have missed something. I will see it again once it comes to streaming. Again, the film mostly works, but that ending deflated me and made feel a little less excited about everything that preceded it. To be a completely successful work, you have to stick the landing.


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Update: Several months later, I like this film quite a bit more. The last few minutes still don’t quite work as well as I would like, but I like the overall film more now than I originally did.

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