A very intense R. I mean, there's nothing officially sexual in this movie, which I guess is a thing. But, like, everything else. That's in the movie. There's gore. There's scares. (A lot of scares, both of the eeriness elements and one really effective jump scare.) There's nudity. There's violence. There's language. Really, it has almost the whole lot. There's demon stuff. If you have a checklist, just check it off. Oh, drug use. Can't forget about drug use. Hard R.
DIRECTOR: Ari Aster
Yes, it is that scary. It did its job. When everyone was talking about how scary the movie is, I tend to get skeptical. I'm not saying that there haven't been scary movies over the past few years. I keep writing about A24 and how great they have been, so believe me that I'm on board for all this stuff. If any movie was going to scare the pants off of me, I had to believe that A24 was going to do it. But I've just kind of noticed a chink in the A24 armor with Hereditary that I have to start watching for in the other films. While I mostly loved this film, there were times that I fell off. I was weirded out because I knew that I was scared for a lot of the film. Again, that's the movie's job. But I realized what was going on with this movie. The movie looks and feels like an A24 film, but the story is...kind of stupid.
Okay, it's not full on stupid. I mean, on the grand scheme of things, I'd give the story a B. It's fine, especially for a horror movie. But I also realized that the story wasn't anything that I couldn't see coming from any other production house. It has a couple big problems with it and I could really point it out when I tried to summarize the story for my wife. There is just far too much complexity for something that doesn't really tie together as nicely as it could. I'm sure that die-hard Hereditary fans will be able to comment on that and point out how everything is tied up very nicely. But there are so many plot points that the film presents as necessary when it really doesn't need all of that. Complexity works when the movie calls for it. I love a lot of complex plots. But this is a movie about character development. Why all the storylines done in one? I'm beating around the bush here, so SPOILERS might be necessary. Why the King Paimon storyline? I mean, ghosts who don't want to be ghosts is pretty scary as is. I know, it adds that extra layer. I even read up a bunch of articles explaining everything away in the film and I kind of dug how it was all tied together. But the movie doesn't really give you a chance to figure out that King Paimon stuff until the second half of the film. It really dangles an important clue behind a bunch of empty clues earlier. There's almost no way to figure out the King Paimon angle of the story until the film full on reveals it in the book. Instead, the movie just gives what seems to be a bunch of disparate threads that are impossible to connect without the center piece. I needed to hear "Paimon" before that point. I needed something to tie it all together. And even then, I kind of want the story to be about Charlie and Ellen. The marketing did such a good job making it seem like it was a ghost story about Ellen that the alternative was actually not as good. When I'm busy being scared about the character stuff going on screen, I don't know if it helps the movie that I'm logically trying to make sense of the plot. It's almost like the movie wants to have one of those shock twist endings, but it really doesn't need the shocking twist ending. The movie stands on its own. The King Paimon stuff feels like it belongs in a lesser horror movie. Honestly, Rosemary's Baby handled the same storyline better. It exclusively focused on that element instead of keeping it as a side element to a film that already had a billion elements.
DONE WITH SPOILERS. There might be someone who is flying through my review and I just realized I've been beating around the bush for a while. That being said, the movie is extremely frightening. I'm not going to give it that coveted "scariest movie ever" award because I think that scary is subjective. This hit a lot of my buttons and I know that it hit the buttons of many others. That has to come from Ari Aster. The movie mostly does a very solid job avoiding cheese and cheap scares in exchange for focusing on mood. Like I mentioned, there is an extremely effective jump scare in the movie, but that really isn't even the best part of the film. What makes the movie scary is that you don't know what direction the movie is going, ever. The most shocking element of the film was well foreshadowed, but I didn't see it coming whatsoever. It's pretty impressive. For half the movie, I was wondering if this was actually a horror movie or just a really scary drama. I know, that sounds stupid, but there are films that I wouldn't classify as traditionally horror. Rather, the drama and the suspense tend to be more scary than traditional horror movie tropes. This movie is about the psychological state and what family does. I loved questioning whether the events on screen were accurate or the hallucinations of a single character. Then the movie kind of plays with the contagious paranoia that plays off of the title, Hereditary. Thematically, the movie gets it all right. It's just in those plot parts that kind of drive me up the wall. I like not knowing what is actually going on.
I'm actually kind of back and forth about this. A24 has kind of skated by in terms of keeping things cryptic. The last one I watched (which I'm blanking about now) just didn't tell you if things were real or not. It's very cool. But part of me was associating with Gabriel Byrne. How cool would it have been if Gabriel Byrne was right? We don't often get that. I know. There's the audience backlash. When all these larger than life things are teased, having the character be insane is a bit of a cop out. But you have Toni Collette just rocking out someone who has a history of mental illness and it takes it to the next level. I am back on the "praise A24" train, but they get these amazing actors to play these parts. Lots of movies may play with the mental illness horror story, but it is rarely explored as deeply as it is with Hereditary. That comes from the high caliber casting that we see in these films. I honestly was ready for the shoe to drop that all of this was nonsense. There are so many layers to these choices that it creates a sense of paranoia in the viewer. The one motif that I didn't really understand were the tiny houses. I mean, this might have been to make it more artistic. I'm not sure. Again, Heredity's greatest fault is that there is too much going on. The look of the small stuff was great. It gave a lot of background without having to resort to flashback as a hackneyed device. But thematically, I'm not really sure what it was selling. Again, I'm back and forth on this. The tiny models allow us to observe a character's mental state, but I don't know how it ties into the big story as a whole. The movie starts with a shot of all of this taking place inside one of the model houses. What is that supposed to mean? I want to glean some greater meaning from the whole thing. But when I try justifying this decision, everything really seems forced. That's not good. The most uncomfortable thing in the world was trying to explain this movie to my wife and realizing that I sounded like a crazy person because there were too many elements. (Okay, that's a bit of hyperbole, but you get what I mean.) The scares can stay. Oh my gosh, the scares can stay. But did it need to have all of those elements? The movie runs two-hours-and-seven-minutes. Cut fifteen minutes of that. I know, you want a rich film. But you have all of the elements. You do the simple stuff well. Why can't I simply absorb the simple stuff?
The movie is pretty scary. That's what you are coming into this movie for. It's also pretty good. But I can't stress this enough, you have too much going on. Cutting about fifteen minutes of this movie to simplify it would do wonders.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.