urinalsarejustok’s review published on Letterboxd:
Don't believe the hype.
The film works infinitely better before it nosedives into the horror genre. The film opens by framing the camera's point of view as omnipotent and clinical - achieved by a (very blunt) visual metaphor. The initial detachment is almost impressive, as it indicates a point of view opposite of the current wave in the genre, which hopes above all else to have a spectator that is attached and willing to be dragged through several levels of identification until the spectator and spectacle are unified: one congruent being that the film must horrify.
The detached opening here indicates something entirely different: a social mode of filmmaking, where the fears of the audience and the characters are separate. A mode that supports, to paraphrase Brecht, watching while smoking: "as it is hopeless to try to 'carry away' any man who is smoking and accordingly pretty well occupied with himself."
This point of view, however, is soon contradicted by a blatant use of the male gaze; a concept of theory so widely known that I can't see the use here being anything other than intentional. But to what end? Perhaps it was to speak in a sort of short hand to indicate that the camera is, in fact, adopting the male character's point of view. If that was the intent, it's an early indication of the appropriation of technique to follow.
The film is at the most interesting when it's functioning as a family drama; when the film is at its most social. Soon enough, the social is made psychological, and the psychological is ultimately made spiritual, as the form becomes increasingly jumbled and the tired post The Conjuring horror cliches get stuffed into the skin of Rosemary's Baby. There are positive things here, but it's a shame that this is being presented as the best the genre can do. Horror is in desperate need of a critical re-evaluation. I suggest beginning with these two questions.
1. What is the source of fear?
2. How does this fear function?
If the genre must follow a market, I almost wish that Paranormal Activity stuck as the trend. (let's not kid ourselves here, there is nothing artistic about the film industry. These are products hiding under the base definition of art. Hollywood is forever chasing a market against the tide of progress, into the most bland and easily accepted cliche of itself.) The form in Paranormal Activity was the source of the horror, and not incidental as these post The Conjuring films have been. An alternate Paranormal Activity market would have been nothing revolutionary, and almost certainly uninteresting, but a content that required the awareness of form would have been something. We have nothing.