I love horror films, I love slow-paced dramas, so theoretically I should have liked Hereditary. Critics were praising it, calling it “The scariest movie of the year,” and “worthy of an Oscar,” so I decided to check it out.
I was not prepared to laugh out loud with the rest of the people in the theatre.
I’m not kidding here, watching Hereditary on Friday night in a packed theatre was like being on MST3K. All of us strangers bonded as we mocked the movie relentlessly, and we left the theatre chanting “Hail Paemon! Hail Paemon!”
It’s not that we didn’t get the ending and needed it explained, and it wasn’t that the movie was too slow-paced. We understood the film perfectly, and we realized how dumb it was and called it out on its stupidity, numerous times.
The main issue is the pauses in the film. Part of the reason we started mocking the film is that something weird or stupid would happen, then the film would pause for a while. Obviously the film makers wanted us to be like “Oh my God! That was so horrible/sad! I can’t wait to see what will happen next!” But, we were like “I totally called it! The chocolate cake had nuts in it and the girl would die in a car accident before they got to the hospital!”
The other issue is the clunky dialogue. I’m fine with tell-don’t-show sometimes, in fact I enjoy it a lot when it’s done right. This film doesn’t do that very well at all. It felt as though the movie cut out every moment of levity, and everything that didn’t give the actors a chance to ‘emote’ in some way or was relevant to the plot was removed. The problem is that everything the actors mention ends up being important to the plot, which makes it very predictable.
For instance, early in the film it is mentioned that the dead grandmother was involved in a weird cult, the daughter is allergic to nuts, and the mother sleepwalks. All of those things are important to the plot, and if you watch the movie you can easily predict how these things are important and will be brought up later.
The acting is pretty good in the film, except for the character of Annie and the boy (I forget his name). The father, the little girl, an old lady and pretty much every background character is a competent actor. The problem is that as the film continues the girl dies, the dad becomes a side-character, and the other actors vanish for many scenes. Around what felt like halfway through the film it seemed as though the focus of the film entirely shifted towards giving solo scenes to Annie and the boy, as well as giving them opportunities to overact.
Honestly, seeing Annie shriek and cry at the events unfolding in the film is like watching William Shatner in the old Star Trek series. Annie is given ample opportunity to shriek, scream and cry as she mourns for her daughter throughout the film. Her character is able to take a complete break from life in order to have as much time to herself as possible. She has no friends, she doesn’t interact with anyone when she works, and her family gives her as much space as she needs. Honestly, it reminds me of those films like The Last Descent with long stretches of a character talking to himself/herself while trapped and waiting to die. Even with the strongest actor it’s tough to get someone to spend an hour, or even 20 minutes straight, watching an actor talking to themselves. The boy isn’t much better, but at least his scenes are usually short, and at least he provides a small amount of levity within the film, even if it isn’t handled well.
The sound design is hilarious. The issue with bad sound design is usually that the guy in charge of the sound for a film only had a small amount of sounds to work with, and the sounds usually sound hilarious because they simply sound “off” when you hear them in the scene. This is especially hilarious when the sounds are also way too loud. Honestly, this film has some of the loudest sound effects I’ve ever heard, and the constant swells (you’ll know what I’m talking about if you see the film) are absolutely hilarious to listen to.
The ending is very dumb, and isn’t handled well at all. What happens is that the predominately slow-pace of the film speeds up considerably, resulting in essentially a number of weird set-pieces to elevate the tension. Then, the film goes completely off the rails in an explosion of stupidity as bunch of naked satanists and a floating headless corpse complete a satanic ritual.
See, the problem with the ending is that you can’t take it seriously on any level. Even if the movie had built the tension perfectly, once the naked satanists, the possessed mother crawling on the wall, and the floating headless corpse appears the movie instantly feels like a comedy and you can’t help but laugh. The fact that the movie tries to play it safe, and tries to wrap everything up neatly with a monologue by one of the naked satanists, makes it even more hilarious.
I honestly think that the critics who are praising this film must have watched a different movie than me. What I saw, and what apparently everyone in the theatre saw, was a poorly made horror movie with hilarious acting and a hilariously stupid plot, that I could not take seriously on any level. What critics apparently saw is a complex artsy and tense horror film with phenomenal acting.
I don’t understand critics sometimes.