Last night, for the first time in my decades upon this earth, I asked a movie theater for my money back. They declined, and I can have no peace, because the most heartfelt statement of my 2018 will be this: God, I hate Donald Trump. But a close second? Hereditary is a bad movie. Not only bad, but the worst film experience I have ever endured, and I made it through the entire Uma Thurman/Ralph Fiennes Avengers. Hereditary is a film so laborious, so tedious, so consummately PONDEROUS, I was writhing in my seat with frustration for at least eight hours of this 127-minute movie.
Spoilers below, probably, I can’t tell yet because I’m still furious with this film, so I’m not sure of everything I’ll say.
It’s not that Hereditary is the worst horror film ever made. That would be Manos: The Hands of Fate, which is exhausting even with Joel and the Bots mocking it. But that was made by merry idiots trying to prove it wasn’t hard to make a movie — which is precisely why Hereditary is more than a disappointment. It’s a well-crafted, well-made, amazingly acted, untenable ordeal of exasperation and exhaustion and everyone but me adores it as scary.
It’s also not that it’s the worst film ever made. It’s the worst film ever watched. No godawful Jeff Speakman chop sockey ever demanded so much energy just to keep looking at the screen. I have never suffered so much exasperation through a film, to the point where I was physically contorted in annoyance for a full hour.
I made it through The Revenant last month, yet somehow Hereditary is the most unrewarding, overhyped, drawn-out, Oscar-skill showcase that I’ve watched plunge ahead without the viewer all year.
Look, obviously Toni Collette is an incredible actress. I’d never seen her range before, but she lived up to every word of praise I’ve heard about her. Gabriel Byrne? Top talent. These two seemed to have a nice marriage. Their kids? Hope they go far in Hollywood. None of these fine actors can deliver Hereditary from itself, because this picture is glued together from fractions of several other movies, never adding up to a whole. It’s a plodding, guilt-wracked drama about grief bound in the thinnest cover of horror, and stitched together with predictable cliches.
There’s a scene where Collette’s character manically drags her family into a seance against their protests, which quickly turn into exhausted weeping, and that’s the most I connected with any of these characters, because that’s what watching this film is like. Hereditary is a bad movie and the universal love for it is making me feel like I’m the only one wearing the specs from They Live.
This film clocks two hours of emotional family drama that’s neither character nor plot-driven. It’s like the world’s longest Juilliard audition. At least It Comes at Night had the decency to be sad and navel-gazing instead of scary in an hour and a half.
But now I know better. It Comes at Night is also from A24, a studio whose “prestige horror” book is getting thick with films that are incredibly well-acted but not really horror films once you’re done with them. I enjoyed the (again, terrific acting of) The Witch quite a bit, but even there, they didn’t really make a horror film, they just sold it as one. In the company of these films, I would sit down and hear every grievance against it from someone who felt let down.
There is precisely one scary moment in the first two hours of Hereditary, and it’s a gruesome jump cut that’s extraneous to the scene, though I don’t fault it for livening up the slog through Hereditary‘s emotional swamp just when the film gets chest-deep in it.
By the time anything scary does occur, it’s unwelcome: a wearisome guest who arrives only once the party has failed and expects you to chat while you’re cleaning up. An impressive though not amazing final scene can’t make up for the tedium of what precedes it.
Look, I admit I’m on the outside here. Half the audience quivered whenever a tongue-clicking pop was heard, but to me it was out-and-out goofy. It didn’t herald anything, it had no sinister element, it was simply a reminder to Peter that, “Yeah, that’s probably your weird sister again.” It wasn’t exactly a surprise when Joan’s screw turned either, was it? You could guess every note in the march towards that cult reveal.
I’m not mad at the filmmakers. In a weird technical sense, this film is superior to almost every horror film out there right now. I’m mad at every one of these critics who claims it’s at all scary, let alone the most terrifying film of the 21st century. Look at the malarkey I found by searching for “Hereditary is a bad movie.” Nothing but praise from AV Club, Vulture, RogerEbert.com, and the rest of the pack whose opinion should be trustworthy. Plainly the problem here is me, not all of you much more knowledgeable cinephiles:
(It gives me an enormous measure of relief to actually see Vulture use the word “ponderous” while acknowledging the deep lag in this film. But then it insists the worst stretch is where the real horror lies.)
Look, it’s fine if everybody enjoys this movie. I don’t need to hate somebody’s hard work. But I am begging you, The Internet, tell me what was scary about it. Name one thing prior to the end scene that made you fearful. It wasn’t the apparitions. It wasn’t the effective but trite shot of carnage in the film’s only surprise pivot; that was more frosting than cake. This is not a horror film. There’s a ton of guilt and a dollop of dread about that guilt. And God bless Vox for saying so briefly before wooing it with sweet kisses:
If you’re going into Hereditary looking for a “scary movie,” you’re doing it wrong. Better descriptors might be “uncanny,” or “unnerving,” or “vexing,” or “devilish.” It’s half supernatural horror film, half startlingly realistic drama about a family dealing with grief,
And one more from the only review that even half acknowledges this film starts off intriguing and then takes a nosedive, even this one titled, “Yes, Hereditary Is Scary, But Is That Enough?”
More than any of the other so-called “elevated horror” movies of the last few years, Hereditary is scary.
Really, The Ringer? Scarier than the consumptive guilt of The Ritual, which had one of the eeriest wakeups from a smash to black ever put to film (not to delve into its own cult ending)? It’s probably scarier than Kill List, though that film was more of a gut-churning, inexorable march towards doom. And also, as noted in that same review, some echo of Kill List and The Conspiracy and The Wicker Man reverberates in this film, even though the ending is pure Rosemary’s Baby.
What about The Blackcoat’s Daughter, another heavy film that goes deep and weird on a small amount of horror, while mostly occupying itself with heavy emotio–oh, look, it’s another A24 film! Think we found the formula, gang: lots of self-torturing emotions, two shocking visuals, then a quick supernatural exit, let’s call it a day. Sometimes it works (I enjoyed Witch and Blackcoat) but more often it’s an insulting waste of everybody’s time. Thank goodness I never finished The Monster.
I would rather sigh my way through Proud Mary again — but backwards and in slow motion this time — than give this movie one more second of my life, so I’ll conclude here. Give me my $16.49 back, A24.