Hereditary

Hereditary

When I was an awkward teenager, if I ever had to go somewhere that required fancy dress, I was always too embarrassed to make the effort. The thought of "what if I VISIBLY make a load of effort and still look shit and everyone laughs at me?" overrode everything else, so I'd half-ass it, show up in regular dress and just make a stupid joke like "I came as myself" or "I came as a teenage goth". I thought if it looked like I hadn't tried, no one could laugh at me for trying. Of course, this actually made me look much worse than if I *had* tried. Generally speaking, people respect you for going all out and just having confidence in a ridiculous costume, whereas if you've got as far as showing up to the party but not dressing up, you just look a bit like a dick...

Here's a desperately strained metaphor but I feel that way about horror lately. Horror is the party. Some films show up to the horror party, all decked out in their horror gear and say "fuck yeah, I'm horror!" and have a great time. Then you get other films that show up dressed as something else, like an indie drama. They want to be at the horror party, for whatever reason, but they're a bit embarrassed to say "I'm horror!" So they half-ass it. They're at the party but they don't fit. Maybe later, when they get drunk, they'll try on something really horror-themed like a hat in the shape of a bat, but they look awkward. Like they're wearing just one part of a costume and, as a result, are neither here nor there.

Hereditary's a bit like that, although - in fairness to it - it's not *just* one of those boring "elevated genre" films (aka the genre formerly known as Mumblegore before they stripped even the gore out of it, for being too entertaining). In many ways, it's its own film and has its own style. I mean, I guess I should give it credit for taking the big tonal risks it takes. But, for me, all these tonal risks crashed and burned spectacularly. It's wearing a really crummy costume.

I don't even know where to begin on listing all things I thought didn't work. About half way through I started wondering if it was a spoof. I imagined it as an SNL sketch called Lars Von Trier's Pet Semetary and that was it, I couldn't stop giggling. Everything felt silly. And I certainly wasn't alone. A Friday night cinema crowd, presumably up for a good scary time, were mostly giggling too. The last time I saw that happen was during The Babadook, which I guess is the film this has the most in common with?

Both are about dysfunctional families with annoying children and terrible mothers, both play as low-key dramas then go, with whiplash speed, to hysterical melodramas and neither feels comfortable wearing a horror costume although Hereditary at least gets blackout drunk and puts on the giant bat-hat, whereas Babadook refused and just stood in the corner mumbling "I've come as a METAPHOR"...

Hereditary just never felt REAL to me. The characters, their house, their relationships, just seemed completely cardboard from the very start - I saw nothing but actors reading lines (and often terrible, ultra on-the-nose lines) of dialogue. The first hour of the film (and yes, this film is a shocking 127 mins - how many horror films can you name that even TRY a runtime as outrageous as that?) is largely played without scares and then the second ramps up the clichés and piles on the very obvious ghost trainy stuff - lifting from everything from Argento to Paranormal Activity - in such a campy way, it would've almost been fun if it had any sense at all of its own absurdity.

There are images in the film that would be terrifying if you saw them in real life but put in the context of the ludicrous, hackneyed plot, diabolical dialogue and eye-popping overacting, they all just feel silly. It was almost worth it for the big laugh I got in one scene (the bit where Gabriel Byrne receives some photos on an email was like something from a Marlon Wayans spoof) but if the best you can say is that the unintentional laughs are strong, something's not working.

Going back to what I was saying, this could've been a great (if familiar) little 90 minute horror story if it'd been less afraid to wear its genre costume and had just gone all out. Instead, it tries to convince you of its emotional depth and artfulness and, as a result, feels like the awkward teenager in the corner wearing his day clothes, rambling on about how smart he is, while everyone is dancing around in their bat-hats doing the Monster Mash and thinking he's a bit of a dick.

I'm extremely tired. This post will probably make no sense to me in the morning but then, that's kind of appropriate to a movie like this.

TLDR : this is pretty awful.

CJ liked these reviews