Released: 7th June
Seen: 13th July
There is something to be said about the horror genre recently. It seems that a lot of critical love has been falling upon films that could be considered “Highbrow Horror“, a genre that fits films like Get Out or mother!, films that have a deep meaning behind the jump scares… people who use these terms seriously are what I like to refer to as “Idiots who have never watched a horror movie before and think that this is somehow a new phenomenon”. Those people would easily use that term on a film like Hereditary, a paranormal thriller that also tackles grief and how the loss of a family member can resonate differently with different members of the family. This film has been getting a lot of love from a lot of people and rightly so… for about the first 100 minutes of the film anyway.
Hereditary is about Annie Graham (Played by Toni Collette), an artist trying to cope with the death of her mother, someone whom Annie had a fractured relationship with. Life really hasn’t been easy for Annie, she’s had to deal with the death of a large amount of her family who has all had some form of mental illness. All she has left in the world is her husband Steve (Played by Gabriel Byrne), her son Peter (Played by Alex Wolff) and her daughter Charlie (Played by Milly Shapiro). When tragedy strikes their family again, Annie turns to a friend she meets at a support group. Her new friend, Joan (Played by Ann Dowd), shows Annie how she can contact those who have passed on and once Annie opens that door, all hell is going to break loose.
For the first hour and a half of this film, it’s genuinely fantastic. It’s a gripping tale about how loss and grief are felt differently by people, some handling it with stoic silence, other’s become fractured shut-ins and other’s are desperate to understand why it happened. Each one of the main characters goes through a very different reaction to grief and those reactions butting up against each other creates some great tension and pulls out some truly amazing performances, in particular by Toni Collette who is just carrying every second of this film on her shoulders. When the focus of the film is on the family interacting and their intensely strained relationship is when this movie works it’s best. The scene where they all try to do a seance together feels so real because you get the one person determined to do it, another doing it because they want to be supportive and the rest are dismissive of the idea and that dynamic is really interesting and creates some interesting and, most importantly, tense moments.
This movie builds great tension early on, the kind of tension that makes you scan every square inch of the film trying to see if there’s something there that’s going to jump out or if something’s changed dramatically. Every sound or crinkle or weird click that you hear makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The tension is constant and it’s powerful and when you get to the end you are on the edge of your seat just waiting to see where everything is going to go… and then the last half hour of the film happens and it basically kills the film. As in, there were several points when the audience I was seeing this movie with could not hold in the laughter because the imagery that was being presented was so objectively silly that it’s impressive that it got through the first screening without someone scrapping it. It’s the kind of ending that clearly has some kind of deeper meaning to it, or at least want’s you to think that there’s a deeper meaning to it, but in reality, it’s a bad ending. A bad ending which could explain why critics love the film, but general audiences aren’t quite as happy.
It’s absolutely impossible for me to describe that final 30 minutes, not only because it made no sense but because it would spoil the film but it’s important that you know going into this film that you are more than likely going to walk out muttering “Well, that sucked” because of the ending. I’m telling you right now that the majority of the movie is actually amazing and worth your time, it’s a thrilling story that handles its subject matter in an interesting way and while there are a few weird character quirks that feel like they’re contrived specifically to create later jump scares, for the most part, you just get a sense that these are real people thrust into something awful… just forgive the ending, they tried to push the metaphor as far as they could go and accidentally threw it over a shark.