Hereditary – 3/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Hereditary – 3/5 –  Horror films are defined by the way they scare their audience.  From the outlandish gore to the adrenaline rush of suspense, frightfulness is a tricky thing.  When you’re billed to be one of the scariest films ever, there is a place that you must reach through certain eyes.  If you do not reach that (in any form), it is a disappointment.  Hereditary is billed as a redefining horror film, but becomes more of a psychological thriller.  Even when the expected is not, there is enough factors to make Hereditary enjoyable at best.

Premise: After the passing of their grandmother, a family is haunted by disturbing occurrences that leads them on a path of dark secrets.

The main acting core is:

Alex Wolff as Peter

Gabriel Byrne as Steve

Toni Collette as Annie

Milly Shapiro as Charlie

These four do a great job capturing the essence of the journey.  The unique situations spawn individual psychological turmoil that cause the four to face inner conflicts.  These conflicts become complex because of the connections they have with each other.  From the parents (Steve and Annie) to the children (Charlie and Peter), the crossroads of family lays fractured intent because of their interactions, choices and personal beliefs.  Watching them slowly break gives emotional fortitude to the ominous things happening in the film.  Toni Collette is at her finest as Annie, brining across a mother who is bothered, serene and mentally conflicted by certain tragedies.  The deteriorating effect bridges a connective path for the audience, creating a true sense of dread.  The secondary cast are just background props to the family.

From the opening scene, you realize that you have a bait-and-switch film on your hand.  You realize that the direction is focused on familial themes mixed with psychological thriller elements.  Being something different, the film sets the tone in the aftermath of the death of a grandmother.  From here, the story is methodically paced to create a playground where characters must deal with the tragedy.  This has a trickle effect, where strange things begin to happen.  From subtle atmospheric tension to crazed interactions, the blending of the unknown and realism creates a path of unpredictability.  This allows for the audience to live the situations ‘as is’, seeing the unexplained is left for interpretation.  This heightens the fear, slowly bringing in that ‘horror’ element that was marketed.  As we delve deeper into the family’s psyche, it uses the subtlety to mix in the ominous tone, slowly building a place of dread and peril.  You feel like something dangerous is coming to bring more personal nightmares.  This brings out the strength of characterization while mirroring psychological terror.  Watching each character have dire reflections while seeking explanations is a sensual grip towards the journey’s core.  The ‘not knowing’ if all is real or not allows for actuality of fear.  This reflects on the use of the bait-and-switch as a tool to create a horror element that is masterful in its own right.  Right at that moment of achievement, the second half turns into an application of every horror trope that has been used in the last 25 years.  The character devolves into clichés that take predictable paths, leading to rituals, monsters and demon archetypes that are all too familiar.  The climax is counter-intuitive, creating a plight that kills the ambiguous nature of the film.  Even as epilogue leads us to a sour note, there is enough great things in the first half to level out the terrible second half.

The visuals are a mixture of common small-town visuals complimented by darkly atmosphere.  The cinematography uses closed rooms, night time and dark areas to create tension.  This compliments the day time in town, where a ripple effect lingers in the characters’ mind.  The score is mute at best, not having a strong application to the film’s story.

Hereditary is filled with a lot of great character dynamic to propel the unexplained tension, but the second half kills the momentum.  Even with a disjointed experience, there is enough to have a good time.  I say for any fan of psychological thrills, this is one for you.  Worth seeing at theaters as a matinee.

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