Tay’s review published on Letterboxd:
prior to seeing Hereditary in theaters, i was a bit tickled by a handful of reviews that documented the less-than-desirable or strange theater experiences that people had when seeing this. someone said their projection went out. another wrote about a fire alarm going off. some people had audiences that nervously laughed, and others that genuinely laughed throughout. maybe it's my own fault for being amused by that and not taking those accounts seriously as warnings instead of anecdotes. but could anything really have prepared me for the family of four that sat a row above me and lorelei? could i really have anticipated that somebody thought bringing their young child to Hereditary was a good or appropriate idea? how could i have known that it wouldn't actually the child that was the Bad Audience Member, but whatever adult decided to knock tf out at the 11:30 AM showing and proceed to SNORE throughout the quietest parts of the film? i'm talking GUTTURAL snores, the kind that come in through the nose and out through the mouth??? listen, whoever you were that slept so loudly: i have to believe you really needed that sleep. if you can fall that deeply asleep during Hereditary, sure, yes, sweet dreams.
anywho, snoozin' aside. what the fuck.
i certainly did not go into this blind, but this also wasn't at all what i was expecting. i don't do horror because i can't do violence, and i wasn't sure if i actually would see this in theaters or not, so i wasn't actively avoiding spoilers. i read up quite a bit on this, so plot-wise, beat-by-beat, i had a good idea of what i was getting myself into. perhaps that's why i wasn't scared by this so much as just... deeply and thoroughly disturbed, not as if my skin were crawling, but as if i had no skin, no more. this is a slow and patient flaying, of will and love. as a family drama, this is one of the most despairing and broken portraits i've ever seen.
Annie's grief is so great, and the only thing greater than it are her failures, both acknowledged and unmentionable. i know friends with mothers (and sisters and aunts and grandmothers, etc.) like Annie. Collette turns on a time, her glimpses of warmth almost crueler than they are comforting, only because they are so brief. she has no tenderness. she shows so little love. she was asked to play a part she never wanted to, and the generational trauma is apparent, and it demands blood from everyone. there are any number of instances in which the sound design haunts (that......... thing that happens.... in the basement....... You Know), but perhaps the worst for me was the incoherent lament that Annie weeps, when she's on all fours in mourning, rocking back and forth, both childlike and animalistic. she is a woman stripped down to her primitive instincts, but none of which are to protect. she is not equipped to save anyone, let alone herself. and so she loses. and then she loses some more. and then everything, everything, everything is lost.
is it despair if there was never any hope? all this tension builds and builds, but there is never any promise, broken or false or otherwise, of release. there is just dread. night turns to day. day cuts to night. it doesn't matter if there is light or darkness. the dread is still there. and it just keeps coming.
Hereditary descends downward and never looks back. it's not Orpheus turning back toward Eurydice and losing her with a glance. because no one in this film has anything for which to look back. i'm not saying their family drama was worse than Literal Demonic Possession and Worship, but... there's something really, really haunting and fucked up about how broken the Leighs were, even before Annie's mother died. could they have healed? would the wounds just quietly rotted indefinitely? would something else have broken them as badly? was there ever any hope? that i know in my heart the answer is more than likely no seems worse to me than anything else. the darkness here prevails, but it was never threatened. there was never a tease of salvation. we knew exactly what we were in for and where we were heading and still, still, still. there was stillness. and a terrible light. and everything was lost.
unsettling and strange and a slow obliteration. Collette shines in a horrific light, but Ann Dowd and Alex Wolff are also fantastic, and jesus fuck that score? i will Never listen to sounds ever again thank you goodnight