Keith Garrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
I don't want to "contribute to hype" (though let's not forget, hype is created by our mind's reaction to positive reviews, and if you are disappointed by a film because of hype, that's no one's fault but your own :-)
But I feel a strong urge to be honest about my experience with this, because it's a really thrilling thing when a movie is able to affect me like this one did (My depressed, jaded ass isn't phased by much these days).
Hereditary is quite brilliant in the way it gets under your skin. Halfway through the first act, I started recognizing so many little tiny moments or shots specifically designed to make you feel like something's "off". Really seemingly random shots that make you go "wait..." and are then never revisited. The movie drops hints and signs, and then just keeps going like nothing happened.
And then, when I was fixated on those little things, THAT BIG THING happened at the end of the first act. Which I truly did not expect. And hoo boy did it throw me for a loop. I became more and more guarded (my whole damn body was tense by the end) because the film kept going down unexpected paths, and I genuinely didn't know where it was going next.
What made it work so well for me is the incredibly executed dysfunctional family drama element, that is so strongly established it's still very much present during the more "out there" moments. And that's what makes this so effective. I was invested in these people.
The dynamics at play in this family are fucking fascinating. Totally devastating, but enthralling despite (or because of?) that. One exchange between mother and son later in the movie knocked the wind out of me (literally, I let out a huge sigh of tension that made the people next to me laugh) because I didn't even know how to process how psychologically fucked it was.
And then it kept doing that to me. I can't remember the last time a movie was so relentless and visceral in that regard. And there are some images and sound effects later on that honestly got the same reaction out of me. It's really something special when a horror film's "scary" moments are infused with real, grounded emotion. And it left me with tears in my eyes at one point. One reviewer (I don't remember who) called it "emotional terrorism" and I cannot think of a more accurate description. This emotionally gutted me. It actually made me physically uncomfortable. It terrified me.
This is what 'scary' is. This is a fucking HORROR MOVIE.