“Hereditary” (2018) is a difficult movie to review. It’s an exceptionally well made horror film, enough for me to rate it at least a 9 out of 10. But its content is so disturbing that I’m not sure that I can actually recommend it to others.
From a technical standpoint, the movie is almost perfect. It’s an astonishingly good first feature film for writer-director Ari Aster, it’s gorgeously shot in the hills and deserts of Utah, and it’s masterfully directed. The performances are uniformly perfect. If I were to name each actor who hands in a fantastic performance, I’d simply be reading its cast list. I can’t remember the last time I watched a feature film in which every single major performance was exemplary. And “Hereditary” gets damned scary in its third act. (Seriously, give it time.)
The only flaws that I can think of are extremely minor. The pacing isn’t perfect. (The story occasionally seems to slow when events should be accelerating.) I had problems with the way that one key character was portrayed, and there was one plot point that gave me trouble. (I can’t say more for fear of spoilers.) But these things are so forgivable that they hardly merit a mention here. You simply can’t argue that this movie was expertly assembled.
Yet I didn’t always enjoy “Hereditary.” I’d be lying by omission if I didn’t state that. I shut it off more than once, and then came back to it when I felt more able to stomach the brutal events it depicted.
“Hereditary” is more than a “dark” movie; it’s gut wrenching. Even if you have read its reviews and you’ve seen the movie’s marketing, then you still aren’t anticipating what will transpire on screen. (I’d even go so far as to say that the film’s marketing was misleading, but I can’t specify why here.) Yes, there’s a obvious “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) vibe, and it’s sometimes reminiscent of “The Exorcist” (1973), but the movie pushes well past the boundaries of those films, and it does so fairly early on. If I, a lifelong horror fan, was turned off by this, then I’m willing to bet that it would also be too much for a lot of casual film goers. (And indeed, while critics loved this film, audiences last year generally hated it.)
I’m closing with a little bit of trivia. Toni Collette gives a tour-de-force performance here as the troubled mother. If she looks familiar to you, that might be because she’s also the mom in another well known supernatural horror film — M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense” (1999).