Del reviews ‘Hereditary’
“Hereditary” Starring Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolf and Milly Shapiro. Directed by Ari Aster. 127 minutes. Rated R.
“Kinda boring, isn’t it?” said the woman in the hallway as I headed for the men’s room. She had seen me coming out of the theater where “Hereditary” was about halfway through its 4:20 showing.
“It’s so very slow,” she continued as she headed back to the theater. Seems she was on her own bathroom break. But she was only partly right.
Said to be the “scariest movie of the year so far,” “Hereditary” is not just “kinda” boring. It’s VERY boring. The first two acts are thuddingly dull, and they’re followed by a third act mashup of horror movie clichés and a reveal that will have you asking yourself, “You mean, that’s it?”
The story begins with a funeral. Annie (Collette) is burying her mom, a miserable old bitch who made Annie’s life a living hell. In fact, Annie comes from a family of whackjobs – schizoids, paranoids and suicides – and now the last one has died. But with a title like “Hereditary” you know Annie’s life will never settle down to that pleasant myth of Americana depicted in every Norman Rockwell painting.
In fact, her current family is downright weird. Husband Steve is passive to a fault, letting every member of the family use him as a doormat. Big brother Peter is a pot-smoking cipher who has no purpose in life except that of professional victim. Little Sister Charlie is a strangely sociopathic oddball with no friends, no interests and no apparent redeeming qualities.
Annie herself is not exactly Mom of the Year material. She sleepwalks, at least once dousing the kids with paint thinner and trying to set them on fire. She re-creates various tragedies in her life as miniature models, an artform that has brought her a measure of acclaim, at least in the part of the world that appreciates depictions of headless children hanging out of the window of a Volvo stationwagon.
And there you have the first two acts of the movie – a slow infodump of all this boring background. The woman in the hallway almost got it right. Very boring.
I won’t tell you what happens in the third act because that would spoil it for you, God forbid you actually see this movie. But I will say this: Little girls crawling across the ceiling isn’t scary anymore. Candles suddenly spouting gouts of flame isn’t scary. Séances, furniture tipping over, flies in the attic – these things aren’t scary anymore because they’ve been done to death.
Collette is super as the besieged Annie. One scene, in which she’s having it out with her son over the dinner table, is Oscar-worthy in my opinion. And young Shapiro is nicely weird as the bird head-snipping Charlie. But Byrne and Wolff are less impressive, not through any fault of their own. Their characters are simply less impressive.
“Hereditary” isn’t scary. It lacks the tension of a good scary movie. And nothing is left to the imagination. You take a movie like “The Haunting,” “The Innocents” or even “Alien” – now THOSE are scary movies. They build their tension slowly and carefully, and they show you only hints of the Bad Thing, allowing your imagination to fill in the awful details.
If you’re in the mood for “Rosemary’s Baby” meets “The Exorcist,” by all means catch “Hereditary.” But prepare yourself for a long slog with a meager payoff. I’m pretty sure you’ll be disappointed.
I grade this movie a C.
Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.