This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Shreya Vikam’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I sat through the first few minutes of Hereditary stiff, with one hand hovering over the pause button just in case I needed a break.It was my first ‘real’ horror movie (unless you count Get Out and Midsommar, both of which would only marginally classify as horror). The lights were intermittently on. I was so preoccupied with being terrified of being terrified, that maybe, maybe I forgot to actually be terrified?And then all of a sudden people were being set on fire and crowned as the kings of hell and I wanted to laugh.
It doesn’t feel fair to rate or review this movie at all, considering how skewed my experience was. I was far too much on edge to actually let go, and the constant tension with no release lost me after a while. At one point, I was only looking at the screen every few seconds. I made it till the end, feeling extremely underwhelmed.
I have a feeling that while Midsommar suffered from the exact same problems in Hereditary. Both movies depend so much more on the entire experience of losing yourself in the film than in any sort of thematic structure. Neither is trying to be provocative or intriguing. All they have going for them is pure sensation. Aster’s movies are like nightmares: if you don’t think they’re real, you’re missing the point.
I ended up loving Midsommar and hating Hereditary because I was completely immersed in one, and an outsider to the other. And if you’re not losing yourself in the film, the flaws of the movie seem unforgivable. All of a sudden, those tiny slips are gapingly wide and the movie feels incredibly stupid. While Hereditary is obviously visually pleasing, with a stunning aesthetic that juxtaposed beautifully with Midsommar’s, everything else felt too much of a letdown.
The problem I had with Hereditary- and all other horror movies, for that matter- is that there is no real threat. It’s rare that the director will make any attempt to give their characters a life outside of horror. And with repeated injury, characters become disposable. I know, for a fact, that no one in that house was going to come out of this story alright, and instead of dreading this, I found it all too predictable. I just didn’t care about them. Think of Charlie. She serves absolutely no purpose except to be creepy and die. Who should I even be scared for anymore? Or what should I even be scared of? Maybe the problem is that I was completely unconvinced that the gods of hell were attempting to enslave the human race, so maybe supernatural horror just isn’t for me. Which is something I already knew, but considering all the praise people were lavishing on Hereditary, I thought this would be different.
It’s not. But it does try. And it tries way too hard.
Here’s a horror movie that’s too scared to be a horror movie and ends up on its knees, desperately trying to explain how it is so much better than every other horror movie out there that it isn't even horror anymore, it is an intellectually fascinating experiment in grief and trauma and other big words. And when you’re not involved in the film, it all feels so pathetic. Hereditary tries far too hard to have depth- something that Midsommar did not bother with at all- and it comes out all over the place.
Grief, trauma, family dynamics, emotional violence, spirits, mental illness, violence, guilt: all of this is just offhandedly thrown out there and left. And it just didn’t feel as fun.
And it’s like the director doesn’t trust you enough to understand and instead buts into the movie to tell you how everything works but nothing really feels real. Mental illness and the supernatural come together to create a muddled, confused mess that might have worked if I was terrified enough to overlook it.
Instead, I found myself thinking about how it would have been so much more terrifying if there was some ambiguity, if you didn’t know whether or not all of this was a result of Annie’s supposed mental illness or Paimon was trying to take over the world.
Maybe if you didn’t actually see Annie going to that support group, only her leaving, suspiciously, to the movies each night. I found her husband’s narrative so much more terrifying- and a lot more intriguing- than Annie’s.
But then again, that’s just my own aversion towards supernatural elements.
The absurdity of the climax felt way too much like an exact repetition of Midsommar (I know it’s the other way around but thankfully, I saw Midsommar first) and it was so disappointing to find out how formulaic the entire movie had been, the exact same structure, executed the exact same way.
The entire film was stuffed with cliches (seriously? She opens a book to find that one word that explains everything that's going on underlined and highlighted?) and so much of the movie feels startlingly unoriginal. And that's coming from someone who hasn't even seen conventional horror movies before. I have a vague feeling that most of the problems I had with this movie were largely a reflection of my own problems in connecting to it, partly due to the way I watched it and partly due to the content.
I’ll have to come back to it later and actually watch it the way it should be watched to be sure. But in this watch, Hereditary was largely underwhelming.