Whenever a horror movie trailer starts off with all their awards and accolades, I involuntarily roll my eyes, because as of late it’s just festival hipster ish. Then they hit you with the “scariest movie of the year” and I become even more skeptical. However the biggest bs of all, is the blurb from some non-horror fan critic that proclaims, “Scariest movie I’ve ever seen.” They must not have seen a lot of movies.
Yes, horror is subjective and what scares you may not scare someone else, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that those blurbs are disingenuous af. I’m probably jaded, but it’s not like I have never been scared by a movie. Everyone has a different barometer for what scares them.
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It is important for you to know what the viewers barometer is before they start talking about this being the scariest or most disturbing movie they have seen. Is their barometer I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream or is it Cannibal Holocaust and Irreversible?
Some people can’t handle gore, but can do supernatural. Some people aren’t affected at all by gore but are bothered by demonic ish. I fall into the later category. Chop up everybody on film. I’ll eat my popcorn and enjoy the ride. Start talking about demons and paranormal stuff and this will creep me out.
Just so you know I’m not some hard ass who is like, horror movies don’t scare me. There are several movies that creeped me out. So, before I talk about this movie, I’ll let you know what my barometer for scary is.
I’ve seen hundreds of horror movies but only a few have been so creepy that no matter how many times I watch them. They remain creepy.
John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness
I am also not a movie snob. I enjoyed the Paranormal Activity movies and the Insidious movies. I think jumpscares can be hella fun, when they are executed well. So I don’t turn my nose up at those movies at all. I can even somewhat be entertained by what I call “My first Horror”, “Training Wheels Horror” or “Slumber Party Horror” movies like Wish Upon, Truth or Dare, and Bedevilled in all of their PG-13 jankiness. How dare one look down on these movies when some of us know when we were 11-13 years-old we were enjoying Witchboard, Mirror, Mirror, and Warlock.
I say all of this because the comparisons of this movie to The Exorcist are bullshit. This movie was good, great even, but it is nowhere near on the level of The Exorcist. The writing, direction, acting, cinematography, score are all really well done to excellent. I’ll get into the specifics in a minute.
Stop doing this. Please.
This is not nearly the scariest movie ever. I could compare it to The Conjuring and Poltergeist (1982, not that weak sauce remake). You remember what Poltergeist did for TV snow? This movie made a simple mouth clicking noise, sound scary. That was pretty amazing. It has some effective creepiness and I’m glad that I saw this in the theater.
They just didn’t need to market it this way because it doesn’t help the movie. They did the same thing with The Witch. Calling it the scariest movie since The Exorcist. They also mismarketed It Comes at Night as a horror movie when they knew it was a thriller.
Anyway let’s talk about the non-spoiled specifics. The actors! All of them were great. Very strong cast. Toni Collette was excellent. Oscar worthy. Get Out earned an Oscar last year so here’s hoping.
Milly Shapiro did a great job as well as Alex Wolff. Milly has an interesting look that works very well for this role. Alex doesn’t even look related to this family. He also looked a firm 30 years old. His IMDb bio says that he was born in 1997, which would make him only 21 at most. Dude, you better start moisturizing. You’re aging like spoiled milk. However he must have been chosen because of how well he acted. He was really good.
I thought at nearly 70 years old Gabriel Byrne was too old to play the father, but you really forget about that once the movie gets going.
The score and sound design were integral to the successful execution of this movie. This is why I said that I was happy that I saw it in the theater. The sound was excellent!
The cinematography was my favorite thing about this film. After seeing so many VOD horror movies where everything is shot too close. It is refreshing to see wide static shots. I like it when a movie languishes in the moment to let me see what I am seeing.
There were also some really creative overhead shots, shots that transition from upside down to right side up and shots that transition from the miniatures Toni Collette’s character makes, to real life. This movie is very beautifully shot. Almost masterfully shot. At times the camera work reminded me of The Shining, or The Omen. Parts of this film were just beautiful to watch.
Let’s talk about the writing. This is where my criticism is going to pop up. The first two acts were tense and suspenseful. The story was unfolding in layers and I really enjoyed that. Something unexpected and quite significant happens to the main characters at the beginning of the second act. I really liked this choice in the writing.
The third act was ratcheting up the tension and fright and then it got silly. I’m going to describe a scene without telling what exactly happened and you’ll only know what I’m talking about if you have seen the movie.
There is a scene with a character waking up in their room. We the audience see something in the room that the character doesn’t. This shot is held for many moments and the suspense builds as we the audience know something that this character has yet to find out.
The audience that I saw this with tonight were losing their shit over this scene…until it got ruined. As the character makes the realization, the tension goes to hell with the silliest of directorial choices. If they didn’t add that last silly ass part, that scene would have been iconic.
The ending was interesting, but not as satisfying as the movie built it up to be. I was expecting a much bigger reveal than what we got. My reaction was, oh was that it? OK.
There was such a dramatic shift in tone between the first two acts and the third. It is almost as if the studio said, this is too tense and atmospheric. Let’s punch it up a bit with some cheap jumpscares.
While they were executed well, they felt out of place. One was ruined by being shown in the trailer. We would not have expected the scene to end that way if they hadn’t put it in the trailer.
Over all, this was a great movie – Especially for a first time feature length feature for Ari Aster. Before you ask, yes, I saw his short film A Strange Thing About the Johnsons. It took me several days to get “Time for din-din” out of my head. In case you missed it. Check it out. It was some creepy weird goodness.
I respect this guy and I look forward to seeing what else he does.
“Heredity was a great movie to watch. I enjoyed it.” – Lady Shasha, WhatDidIJustWatch.com
That’s the blurb they should have used.
I have heard that this movie was originally 3 hours long and they cut an hour. I would really like to see the original cut. As of the publishing of this post the Hereditary DVD has been released. While it does include 9 deleted scenes, there still is no 3 hour director’s cut available.