halley’s review published on Letterboxd:
I don't even know where to begin with this movie, so I suppose I'll start with the end. The final sequence in this movie was one of the most bewildering, gruesome, horrifying things I'd ever seen (read: endured), and then the screen cut to black, and then a Judy Collins cover of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now played. I got up and noticed that I was shaking. Like, literally shaking. And so was the rest of the theater. It was like we had all just survived some really harrowing experience together. I saw the movie by myself, but there was this crazy sense of shared awe among all of the moviegoers in the theater.
I won't say anything about the plot, because the whole point of the movie is that what you think the movie is going to be about ends up only being a red herring. It's a slow build, and until the final sequence, the film isn't scary so much as it is disturbing and a bit baffling. It's like Rosemary's Baby (except better). Until the final sequence, you don't really know what's going on, and until the final sequence, the film is almost purely a family drama. Are the events in the film caused by mental illness? Something supernatural? A little bit of both? This push and pull propels the film into its final act, in which all hell breaks loose (literally).
There is so much that I love about this movie. It shies away from absolutely nothing (for better or for worse). The acting is literally some of the best I've ever seen (I smell an Oscar nom for Toni Colette). And what I especially love about this movie is that it takes everything you expect to see in a horror movie and warps it to create something original. Yes, it has echoes of Rosemary's Baby, or The Witch, or The Shining. But I've never seen anything like it before.
The setting is also something I really appreciate. Instead of taking place in a haunted Victorian home, as horror films are prone to do, this haunted house is a dark, wood Greene and Greene style craftsman. I think that Ari Aster's nod to the fact that his film is just a step ahead of what usually happens in horror films, if that makes any sense. Hereditary uses the themes and tropes of horror films to build something... wholly unique.
I'm going to see the movie again on Sunday. There were so many tiny details and Easter eggs that I began to pick up on during my viewing of it last night, but I can't wait to see what else I notice. Hereditary is a nuanced, detailed, and (needless to say) intense look at what we inherit from our foremothers and forefathers. It's a study on grief. But most of all, it's just a seriously scary movie.