This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
richardfeder’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Sorry, friends and neighbors. I really hated "Hereditary." It genuinely puzzles me as to why this film is getting such great reviews and why it seemed so awful to me on multiple levels. My taste meter must be way off kilter. I don't even know how such a film got made in the first place. I promise that I'm not trying to be contrarian, but it seems like, once again, I'm far, far outside the critical consensus when it comes to an acclaimed horror film.
So, my advice is that you should probably just ignore this particular review, see "Hereditary", and enjoy it like a vast majority of people seem to be doing!
As for me, I gotta call 'em as I see 'em. So, here we go, with lots of spoilers.
First, the good:
I did like the scene of the teenager coming back home after the accident and the gruesome discovery by the parents happening off-screen. I also enjoyed the dinner scene that followed it, where the family begins to confront the accident. I do think that this film has the germ of what could have been a good dramatic film. The actress playing Charlie was okay, even if the character was giving me flashbacks to young Michael Myers in Rob Zombie's "Halloween" remake." I appreciated the restrained use of music.
Now, the bad:
1. All the creepy miniatures featured in the trailer and the first half of the film? They never become part of the story in any meaningful way. WTF is up with that?
2. The creepy grandma? Her backstory is important, but she herself is never part of the immediate action or the scares.
3. Charlie, the creepy little girl featured in the trailers? Turns out she's barely in the movie at all.
4. Abysmal pacing. Other than the featured accident, there's barely any attempts at scares in the first two acts. I'd imagine opening night crowds of teenagers would be mostly bored silly. I know I would have been back in my Friday scary movie date night days.
5. The mother character. Toni Collette is acting her ass off, but is her character supposed to be sympathetic or a villain? It really felt like the movie could never decide, so, in one scene we're supposed to be scared for her, and in the next scene we're supposed to be scared of her, and back again.
6. The brother character. Alex Wolff seems to have gotten the part because of his ability not to blink, but the character of Peter was much like his mother: hard to empathize with. He leaves the remains of his sister in the car for his parents to discover, yet after that, we, the audience, are still supposed to think of him as a protagonist and feel visceral fear for his safety whenever he's in a scary situation? That's not how these things work.
7. The "Naked people are scary, man!" cliche pops up right there at the ending. Ahhhh, ghost dicks! Run away!
8. Gabriel Byrne, cashin' checks. I was actually surprised late in the film when Byrne's character of Steve was referred to as the children's father. He totally came off as the stereotypical ineffectual stepdad, that I was shocked to learn that he was actually the stereotypical ineffectual biological dad.
9. And why does the father catch fire when the sketchbook is thrown in the fireplace? There's few things I hate more than a movie breaking a rule that it just established only a few minutes before.
10. Poor staging. Long takes of two shots can be effective, but not when constantly used. I appreciate the lack of hand-held shakycam, but I thought that often the staging was draining scenes of power rather than increasing them.
11. I know there was probably some bullshit exposition that explained this, but I still find it difficult to believe that all of this soul-hosting business could not have been accomplished when Peter was a baby.
You may be wondering "Hey Dick, if you're so smart, how come you aren't writing and directing a better motion picture?" Well, that's a damn good question.