kevinyang’s review published on Letterboxd:
So close. So, so, so close. Most of this film is fantastic. The scares feel organic, the tension is relentless, and the performances are impeccable. It certainly works as a horror film on a purely technical level, but where it draws its strength is from its humanity. After all, the horror is inextricably linked to sorrow, regret, pain, and the helpless feeling of being trapped within your own lineage. Just one sentence from mother to son can have the same effect as a creature jumping out at you from the shadows. The above are all fascinating ideas, and for most of the runtime, Aster brings them out to play without necessarily needing to subvert the genre.
Then it all goes off the rails, and not in a good way. The supernatural elements feel scattershot, the commentary on family falls by the wayside, and the ending attempts to grasp ahold of profundity that isn't really there anymore. It's baffling in a disappointing way even though it's effective on a visceral level. By going to the wild places it does in the last act, the film in fact gets more conventional (in a negative way) rather than less.
It's still great. Toni Collette is a force, and the first act boasts one of the most memorable film scenes in recent memory. The staging of the scene, the choice of focus, the editing, the chillingly prolonged dread seeping into every single pore...it all comes together to create something that is equally soul-crushing and horrifying, something that cannot be described so much as felt. It's brilliant, and so is a lot of the film. It's a shame it doesn't quite land upright.