Many horror movies have a little bit of the ol’ status quo at the beginning, a seemingly normal day to contrast with when things start getting crazy. HEREDITARY starts with a funeral, but it’s fairly uneventful, so that’s our calm day to want to get back to when the world starts shitting right into a fan.

Annie Graham (Toni Collette, SHAFT, xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE) has just lost her mom. But the family’s feeling strange about it because Grandma Ellen, from the sounds of it, was a weirdo and a total pain in the ass. Annie starts hallucinating her mother’s presence and decides to go to a support group. Her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne, END OF DAYS, COOL WORLD) looks out for the family. Their teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff, MY FRIEND DAHMER) doesn’t really care and just wants to smoke weed and stuff, while their younger daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro, Tony winner for playing Matilda on Broadway!) is… strange. Builds things out of junk, plays with dead animals, munches on a chocolate bar next to grandma’s open casket.

Eventually, weird shit happens. There are apparitions, seances, paranoia, pretty standard stuff. But it’s put together and unfolded in ways that feel new. I’m trying to be non-specific, even though it’s the type of movie that would be hard to spoil. The things that happen are too wild to pin down as a premise or plot twist that can be succinctly explained. It’s a good one, as you may have heard.

We’ve discussed this pattern before:

1. A horror film from a new or obscure director goes over really big at one or more of the major film festivals

2. The great goblet of film criticism overflows with buzz that pours out all over the internet

3. For months we hear glorious but non-specific legends of earth-shattering cinematic greatness

4. The movie is finally released in theaters, and (unless it’s GET OUT) there’s a big backlash because enough people think it’s too slow/too weird/not-what-I-expected/not-that-great

I can’t tell yet if that’s the case with HEREDITARY, which set the 2018 Sundance Film Festival on fire and roasted marshmallows over it six months ago, and already made a profit in its opening weekend last week. It has a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes/87 on Metacritic but a D+ CinemaScore, so that suggests it’s one of those divisive ones. But I saw it in the biggest auditorium at a downtown multiplex, almost full, and people were gasping and laughing along with it. If people hated it I didn’t pick up on it.

There’s this thing you know from the trailer, the little girl Charlie has a habit of clicking her tongue, and of course that comes back later in a threatening manner. That seems a little contrived to me, and wouldn’t you know it inspired some wiseguys in the audience to start making that sound, so it reminded me of THE GRUDGE using kids making a weird sound in a similar manner that was also imitated in the theater when I saw it.

Other than that, HEREDITARY doesn’t feel like a mainstream horror movie. It makes sense that it’s released by A24 (SPRING BREAKERS, ENEMY, UNDER THE SKIN, LOCKE, THE ROVER, EX_MACHINA, THE WITCH, GREEN ROOM). Annie is an artist who builds miniature models from scenes in her life, so it’s a movie with a carefully designed look to it. It takes its time getting going, many of its freakiest scares happen without a loud sting on the soundtrack, it deals with adult shit like family trauma, support groups and guilt over not wanting to be a parent or not loving a parent, it has a heart-wrenching scene of Annie ugly-crying with grief, it leaves most things unexplained, or at least explained in a way where you’re gonna have to sit down and take notes and study it for a while before you can figure it out. And just like with all acclaimed horror movies, the hype comparing it to THE EXORCIST and talking about it scaring the holy bejeezus out of your pants is, of course, some bullshit that you should completely ignore.

I heard writer/director Ari Aster on Post Mortem with Mick Garris, and he says he grew up watching every horror movie he could get his hands on at the video store, but proceeds to talk about DON’T LOOK NOW and Polanski and Haneke and not mention one straight-up horror movie other than THE SHINING and “DePalma’s CARRIE.” So Aster’s priorities are not the same as those of us who like those movies but get more hyped up over EVIL DEAD and TEXAS CHAIN SAW and shit. In this case I think that works out well. To me the most effective, upsetting stretch works by wallowing in a whole new flavor of horror. The most shocking, horrible thing in the movie has just happened, it’s an accident, and then we watch in long, excruciating closeup as [VAGUE SPOILER] the person responsible realizes what has happened and freaks out and calms down and drives home in shock and extreme guilt and… jesus… goes to sleep without telling anyone, even though the family is gonna wake up and discover it. Man. It forces you to put yourself in that place – what if you made a horrible, unfixable, life-ruining mistake, how would you handle it? How could you face up to it? How could you tell the people who would be most devastated by it? What would it feel like to be too much of a coward to do that? It’s hard to watch in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. Innovative cinematic misery.

But what’s so surprising and delightful is that then, even though things gets much stranger, much crazier, much supernaturaler, the movie is kind enough to not keep poking at that wound. It shows us different textures of scare. And it’s fun! The thing they’re not saying in all this hype and buzz and hypebuzz is that there are a whole bunch of laughs in this movie. Not jokes, but funny situations, funny reactions. I mean I admit I did hear a legitimate whimper somewhere in the crowd at one point. But I was smiling most of the time and I don’t think I’m too much of a weirdo. It’s a good time.

My point is that yes, this is an arty type of horror movie, but it’s not one of those controversial slow-burn-not-much-happens ones (what are those called, ti westerns?), it’s a very entertaining movie. I think it’s in between the extremes of film festival horror on one hand and mainstream on the other. You guys, I think this might be an art-a-blast!

I actually think Collette might get an Oscar nomination for this. I know that doesn’t often happen with horror, but it’s such an undeniably impressive performance I think it could. She starts out just a relatable cynical person, not quite grieving the loss of a mother she didn’t get along with. Then in the support group she unleashes an avalanche of information about her family history that works as backstory exposition, sure, but the loopy way she delivers it shows us that she’s more shaken than she’s let on previously. And as the events unfold not only do they cause her to be increasingly unhinged, but she keeps revealing more things about herself. It must be halfway through the movie when a new friend asks about her relationship with her son and she tells about an incident with him that can only make you say “Wait a minute, what!?” But she tells it like it’s kind of a funny story.

I love that Annie is the character who seems like our best hope to get everybody out of this mess, and also she’s the one who seems the most out of her mind. There are some good uses of a thing I like – I remember this happening in that movie MIRRORS, too, but it’s even better here – she explains to her husband what she thinks is going on and we know that she’s right but she seems so zany and it sounds so ludicrous that of course he doesn’t believe her and he looks at her with complete disbelief and discomfort. Collette makes it grimly hilarious how incapable she is of making the truth sound reasonable.

Steve is the straight man to all this, and that kind of ties in with the title. He married into this. What the fuck did he get himself into? He’s just a normal guy trying to keep his wife on track to be ready for her art show and remind his son to prepare for the SATs, he doesn’t want to have to deal with family curses and seances and looking for mystical symbols in old photo albums. And he never does the standard horror movie thing of starting out as a skeptic but being converted and stepping up to the plate. He stays at “oh shit I think I’m gonna have to have my wife committed or something.”

Annie assumes she’s inheriting a history of schizophrenia and depression, when what she’s actually getting is much crazier!

I don’t think I understand the significance of Annie creating miniature models, but I like it. Aster (with cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski [TRAGEDY GIRLS] and production designer Grace Yun [DOG EAT DOG, FIRST REFORMED]) starts in one of the models, turns it into the real house, and then shoots the real house like it’s a model. And it’s really cool when they show the models because they’re lit very dramatically like cinematic scenes, but we know they’re just simulations of cinematic scenes, which we know are just simulations of life, but if they work right they speak to the things we’ve experienced, just as the models speak to the things Annie has experienced.

Psychologically we can assume that making them gives Annie some sense of control to be able to build from scratch her entire world, including the most traumatic moments in her life, as cute little dioramas, and put them on display for the world to see. But she’s not in control, that’s very clear. Even the fact that she expresses herself creatively seems to be something given to her – her mother made pillows, her daughter draws and makes found object sculptures. It’s hereditary.

But maybe it wasn’t supposed to mean anything, maybe it’s just a reference to Wesley Snipes building models of civil war battles in MURDER AT 1600. And by maybe I mean definitely.

There’s this trope in horror movies, we’ve seen it a million times, where the protagonist sees something horrible or supernatural and goes to get someone else and when they come back to show them there’s no trace of it and they swear it was there, it was right there, what is going on, you have to believe me, etc. There’s a scene like that here – she goes to get him and there’s the whole buildup and you know exactly where this is going – until you hear him screaming because what the fucking shit, it really is there, just like she said.

(PHANTASM messes with this trope too when Michael shows Jody the creature he trapped in a box, but this one goes in a different direction.)

It’s fair to say this is a movie with some strong instances of what-the-fuck-was-that type weirdness. That’s something I love in horror movies but also it can be a detriment to my enjoyment if it’s not tuned just right. On one end of the spectrum there are the rare movies like Argento’s INFERNO, SUSPIRIA or PHENOMENA – or, to go more mainstream, SILENT HILL – that exist in such a feverish dream version of the world that they tap into some primitive part of my brain. More often, though, they start in an approximation of normal everyday life and then a weird thing happens, and then they go back to the regular world for a while and then another weird thing happens and it’s just gonna go away again so it starts to feel like there’s no consequence to anything. This is the structure of many a THE CONJURING type ghost story but also crazy arthouse movies like ANTICHRIST and in-between like LORDS OF SALEM. And often if I catch onto this structure it loses me because I realize okay, yeah, this weird thing is happening but then suddenly it will go back to normal for a while, so there’s no reason for concern.

HEREDITARY completely avoids that pitfall. To me the structure is more like trying to spin a hula hoop on one finger, and you get it going for a while but as it gets faster it gets wobblier and out of control until eventually it flies off. STRUCTURAL SPOILERS but it pretty much turns into 2001 at the end. Some crazy shit that you kinda get and you mostly know you definitely don’t get but at least you get it enough that it sort of explains everything.

I’m pretty sure the puzzle pieces would fit together if I had the time to work on it. It’s not just random weirdness. But I liked feeling in over my head. I don’t know what these people are up to but now I’m a part of it.

Anyway, between this and my favorite Janelle Monae song 2018 has been a big year for tongue clicks.


After the movie a friend asked me some questions about what happened and I did not feel qualified to answer. I feel like you’re not expected to follow or decode everything, it’s like a crazy conspiracy theory where you can see some of the parts and believe that the characters know what they’re talking about but you can’t keep up on your first try.

So I only have guesses. I get that it has something to do with the cult trying to resurrect this 8th king of Hell who prefers a male body. Annie said her “schizophrenic” brother accused her mom of trying to put people inside him. Charlie said her grandma wanted her to be a boy. So that could mean she was disappointed that she wasn’t a boy and couldn’t use her body. But we hear that grandma breast fed her! And at the end Peter makes Charlie’s clicking sound, and Joan calls him Charlie before telling him he’s this king. So doesn’t that mean Charlie was the king the whole time, but wanted the male body, and now they’ve achieved that? I’m not sure. And if it is that, why weren’t they able to get him into Peter when he was born, was it just because the family wasn’t getting along at that time?

Also there’s this theme of Annie trying to kill Peter. Sleepwalking, she tried to light him on fire. In a dream she tells him that she tried to cause a miscarriage before he was born. My guess, very possibly wrong, is that she somehow subconsciously knows to try to stop this plot, get rid of this male body. I don’t know.

One question I wondered: are we sure they know what they’re doing? I like how he just stands there like an idiot, doesn’t say anything or look evil or smile or anything. I half expected him to blurt out something revealing that he’s still just Peter. Because that would be a pretty awkward situation to find yourself in.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 14th, 2018 at 12:03 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

73 Responses to “Hereditary”

  1. Looking forward to finally seeing this one (as soon as my sister (who is my horror film-watching buddy) has a free weekend, but the most striking thing about it so far is how every review and article I’ve seen seems to use a new and different photo of Toni Collette’s face twisted rubber-like into a horrified grimace. She’s like a horror movie mid-90s Jim Carrey!

  2. Am I having a deja vu or is this an updated version of a review you wrote like a week ago?

  3. Sooooo…. I did not care for this one. The early incident with Charlie and the son’s reaction to that was horrifying and really stuck with me. It’s when the supernatural and demons creep in that I start to lose interest and frankly I just don’t think it hangs together thematically. I think what the movie suggested and what I suddenly realized I wanted was a fucked up family drama written and shot like a horror movie, because that is a subject ripe for exploration and totally unique. But that’s only about 40% of this movie. The final moments are a total dud because who cares? How does this change the son? We have no idea. It wants to have a “Rosemarys Baby” type ending but the horror of that is not the shock of the revelation but Rosemary’s acceptance of her demon baby. This movie has nothing like that. It has incredibly effective moments but as a whole it doesn’t work. But the fact that it has those high points gives me hope this first time writer/director that he can really hit it out of the park once he actually knows what he’s doing.


    In terms of the timings of the body-swap, I think they needed three heads from family members to make it work. They show us that in the book. The demon in the woodcut picture thing had collected three heads, magical catalysts and that. so i could imagine that’d take time to arrange.

    I loved this movie: It was so interesting to me to see a movie about the age old horror trope: a girl on the cusp of puberty and fearing or resenting the changes (Charlie wears shapeless, body-hiding sweaters and frets about her gender and the expectations of her grandmother), which was so utterly devoid of the imagery usually associated with that play. No buckets of blood, none of that. If I was gonna sum this flick up in three words I’d call it “gender dysphoria Carrie”.

    I think the trans stuff is a big theme here. Charlie (gender neutral name) having to die to become Peter – and the trauma that caused – reminded me of how sometimes you see parents of trans kids talk about it like they love their son but miss the daughter (or vice versa) that they once had, or thought they had. It felt like a literalisation of that feeling, and the trauma of transition.

    Thinking about it, a soft blue light is such an interesting way to represent a supposed prince of hell. And Charlie/Peter – in her new body – was really chill about it. They just seemed gonna confused more than anything. The gentleness of the actual possession, when it came, made me think it was saying that the process of transition is so traumatic cos how people react, or put their expectations onto you – nit because there’s anything wrong with who you are. For all the hysteria around her (or him, i guess) at the end of the movie she just wanted to do her own thing. There was no evil cackle, or Black Phillip theatrics, or a ‘my time has come’ oh shit moment. I thought there was a real sweetness there, in a moment other films would’ve played pitch black. Worth noting as well that this was another ‘final girl’ horror movie. But the girl’s ended up a final boy.

    The theme gets hammered home even more when they show us Charlie’s head mounted on a giant-asss doll thing. Which plays off the mum’s minatures in a cool way. I dunno, this is a surprisingly rich-ass movie. i dont think it is saying any one thing either. Looking forward to revisiting it soon.

  5. Rabbitwithfangs

    June 14th, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    I agree with most everything you said – but I did think the pacing suffered at the expense of the (admittedly stunning) production values. I didn’t find it frightening but it was emotionally harrowing; I woke up the next day feeling very depressed and out of sorts and no, I hadn’t tossed back too many Southern Comfort & Cokes the night before.
    Also I just have to tell you I appreciated your Ti West joke. :)

  6. Simon – Maybe you saw me tweet about it after seeing it Friday? I didn’t finish the review until today.

  7. Man, I have a lot to say about this one. I know I can be given to wacko fan theory BS and maybe my take on this one will seem no different but what are you gonna do, it feels realer than usual this time. This post is basically all spoilers, be warned
    So, most of the time I really vibe on end-of-2001-style ambiguity in a movie. Like, to the point that I usually prefer to interpret something as ambiguous if I have the option between that and a concrete interpretation that ties everything up in a bow. But the thing that surprised me most about Hereditary was how well I thought it worked as a hyper-subjective, hyper-symbolic depiction of the ways serious mental illness can rip a family to shreds. (“Literally!” -Gene Shalit)

    I want to be clear, often i find it incredibly irritating when people analyze something by projecting some kind of psychological pathology onto the characters. “Hamlet obviously had PTSD” and etc. So I don’t say this lightly about Hereditary. But for me, once it occurred to me to watch it this way, it was really hard to let it be just a story about demonic possession. In interviews the director seems way more into talking about the nuts and bolts of the supernatural shit than any availability of a mental-illness angle, and that’s fine, but I don’t think it necessarily means I’m grasping at straws with this interpretation (and sorry to sound prematurely defensive, I just haven’t read this take on the film anywhere else yet).

    Toni Collette’s performance was one reason why I read it the way I did. Around the middle of the movie — especially when she gathers the entire family together in the dead of night, manically babbling nonsense that she insists is the miraculous solution to all of their problems if only they do exactly what she tells them to — I got to wondering whether she was possessed, or whether she was pretending to be possessed to fuck with her family and get attention because sometimes that’s just what a mentally ill parent who’s having a meltdown feels the compulsion to do. Dunno about you but I know which one I find to be scarier, as an idea. And the way Collette plays it… I dunno, man. I don’t think I trust Annie Graham. Especially with a name like that.

    On the whole I didn’t find the movie to be scary, though, per se. “Harrowing and ultimately kind of sad” was how I described it afterwards to a friend who hadn’t seen it. Weirdly, the scariest part for me was probably the score during the final scene. Until then the movie has ominous and dissonant music, zero warmth whatsoever. But then during that last close-up shot of the kid’s face, while Ann Dowd is explaining her crazy Paimon bullshit, the music goes way past warm and becomes downright exultant, transcendent even. It felt less like it was ironically celebrating the rebirth of an evil force on Earth and more like it was evoking the comfort and relief the kid was feeling by succumbing to this completely insane fantasy after he’s seen and/or participated in God knows what horrible shit has really gone down. Whatever we’ve been shown in the movie, I feel like the consequences are legit but the actual methodology is anyone’s guess. That is vague, sorry– I mean, like, I’m sure his mom wound up decapitated, but I kinda doubt she zipped around in the air and then did it to herself with a piano wire.

    And speaking of that piano wire. My one nitpick for the film — especially a film that bothers to insert a Chekhov’s-nut-allergy early on — is that the piano wire made no earlier appearance. But I can live with that. It was a great, cringeworthy effect.

    Overall I went in pretty blind, so I started wondering well before it was over what the story of the movie would wind up being. And as much as Toni Collette owns this thing, it’s clearly her film, I think even so you can look at it as the story of how this kid Peter finally went full schizo and never came back. It works as a demonic-possession ghost movie well enough, but without the mental-illness metaphors I think I would have dismissed it as another overhyped festival horror pic and forgotten about it. As it is, I saw it last weekend and haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

  8. Spoilersssss|

    The piano is shown in the foreground all smashed when Peter comes downstairs and finds his father, a few minutes before the garrotting.

  9. Torn on this one. I found myself getting really frustrated by the pacing in the first half despite occasional energetic bursts (phone pole, sleepwalking, dinner argument, etc.) and was kinda ready to write this off as overhyped art horror – but once the flick Reeeally gets started and things start going bananas… dude I was so in it.

    The way the flick just stares unflinchingly at every uncomfortable moment and then carries that same unblinking eye into the suspense of its finale had me absolutely squirming. I don’t think I’ve felt so uncomfortable/unsettled and tense in a theater in years.

    But now I’m arguing with myself. Because on one hand I’m like “why the hell did it take an hour for the movie to start despite a pretty fucking significant inciting incident happening way earlier?” – But on the other hand I feel like a lot of the second half’s strength is how insane it is in juxtaposition to the super slow first half. The same techniques that drove me crazy at the start are the ones that worked so well on me at the end.

  10. When I fell in love with Muriel Heslop back in 1994, I would never have guessed that Toni Collette would become the new Jamie Lee Curtis.

  11. *SPOILERS* My first thought after this was over was “Poor Toni Collette”. Because as much as I agree she’s phenomenal and absolutely deserves an Oscar nomination, the last 15 minutes shit the bed so thoroughly that I felt this torpedo-ed any Oscar chances she had. I mean, as tired as I am of hipster/indie slow-burn festival horror that receives the inevitable public backlash, I was completely onboard when this movie was just a dark family tragedy drama. And then I was extra onboard once that amazing first seance scene happens (with Collette’s next-level Veronica-Cartwright-in-Alien squirming).

    But once the crazy shit starts happening, it starts reminding me of the lazy randomness of Cloverfield Paradox (“Why do you need an explanation of why a major character catches on fire? Why do you need every little thing explained to you man?”) And everything about the ending and the reveal just feels muddled and half-baked. I’ve seen reviews saying “This isn’t the movie you think it is” which is weird because it ends up being EXACTLY the type of movie I thought it would be – Oh you mean a mysterious stranger who seems untrustworthy and is played by someone who always plays a villain turns out to be a villain?? No way!

    Btw Vern, the director said in an interview that there was no Charlie and she was the King the whole time, which puts this whole movie into the “incredibly intricate long con” category, since I guess she/he had to go through this entire nut allergy charade, not to mention have her followers mark that telephone pole and plant a carcass in a road or something (and I’m assuming, jump through hoops to make sure a bunch of teenagers chopped a giant pile of walnuts at a party). Seems like a lot of trouble when she could have just, I dunno, sawed off her own head. (Sorry to sound cynical or dismissive, it’s just that the emotional moments are so well done that it makes the nonsensical plot elements stick out that much more).

  12. Oh and re: the backlash to the backlash, if I have to read one more thinkpiece about how the D+ Cinemascore was because of low-brow, red-state, cro-magnon mouth-breathers expecting some schlocky gorefest, I may have to get off the internet for a while. 1) The movie pretty much becomes a lowbrow schlocky gorefest at the end, 2) Every person I know including me feels the slow-burn part was the best part and the more traditional horror movie ending was the major problem.

    I literally read an article saying dumbed-down audiences are too accustomed to the gore and jump scares of movies like Happy Death Day (I’m assuming this person hasn’t seen Happy Death Day) and I read another one saying audiences were just expecting typical cookie cutter horror like A Quiet Place. A Quiet Place! The damn-near experimental horror movie that critics and audiences somehow both liked and made a ton of money! I feel like every year from now on A24 is going to release a slow-burn horror movie with a quote comparing it to the Exorcist and people aren’t going to like it and the tastemakers can just copy and paste their thinkpieces and so on and so forth.

  13. Eh, I only like ‘thinking-man’s horror’ like MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN anyway


    Yeah, well okay, but did you think it was gonna be the type of movie where the main character tries to burn herself to death but it doesn’t work and then she floats around and saws her own head off with a piano wire and her headless body floats up into a treehouse where her daughter’s severed head is attached to a mannequin wearing a crown and a bunch of fat old naked people are bowing to her and explain to her son that he’s the 8th King of Hell Paimon as he’s hailed by a triumphant trumpet anthem? Because I didn’t expect that but I guess if I had I would’ve been satisfied that I got what I was looking for.

    I figured Charlie was really Paimon all along, but maybe her death was a crazy accident that the cult took advantage of, or that was caused by demonic energy or some shit. I’m sure Aster knows the answers, but I’m not sure I want to.

    Those reviews you’re talking about sound like bad reviews. I’m glad I’ve avoided them so far.

  15. FWIW i reckon the Charlie was Paimon all along thing isn’t that big a deal. Well I mean it is, as like a twist, but I don’t see why it means she/he was faking stuff. I think Paimon was experiencing things as child, and as a bit of a misfit, and wasn’t trying to hide her true nature or anything.

    Think about how she/he takes the stuff at the end of the film. She/he isn’t cackling, or dropping a facade. She/he just seems confused, and their true nature needs to be explained to them. It is left very ambiguous as to how she takes what is being told to her, and fwiw the way Wolff plays it makes it seem to me like Charlie/Paimon is still very much experiencing things as, well, the young girl we saw earlier in the movie.

    I also think on the pacing side, I really bet the first act or so picks up on rewatch. A lot of what’d wash over you when you don’t know what is happening would be an ‘oh shit’ moment if you knew what was coming. For instance, Byrne’s reference to the smell, the flyer, and most of all the time we spend with Charlie playing is time spent watching her… literally assembling a a body out of the junk around her. (and fwiw it feels to me like she was acting on impulse there rather than a sign she knew what was coming, and that the stuff with the car and accident is like… i dunno.. just the effect that the dark energy and spells or whatever had, facilitated thru grief-sesh lady in her flat).

    Oh man, more I think about the film the more I see to like, hardcore.

  16. SPOILERS!!

    I guess I found this one to be pretty over-the-top from a much earlier point than its last 15-minutes. I don’t necessarily mean that as a value judgment, I’m just finding the diversity of critical and audience responses to be interesting. My audience also laughed and tongue-clicked throughout as a defines mechanism.

    The car-ride/decapitation scene is one of the biggest Oh My God! moments I’ve felt in a movie in a while, but it wasn’t until Aster cut back to a shot of Charlie’s ant-covered head on the side of the highway that I started to question his intentions. I can be ok with exploitative schlocky horror, and this one’s certainly memorable and sometimes disturbing. We can compare it to ROSEMARY’S BABY, but I feel that one had a little more on its mind than just causing upset. Or maybe I need to see HEREDITARY again. I liked it overall, but I feel it shares a bit more with the New French Extremity than it does with recent Arthouse Horror.

  17. *defense mechanism* My autocorrect only allows Canadian spellings.

  18. Yeah I do think the pacing issues I had will soften some with repeat viewing, but I think it might still feel a tad soggy. Either way the intensity of where things eventually go was strong enough that I’ll have an easier time sitting through it knowing what’s coming. And I can just imagine how much fun it will be to spring this flick on uninformed friends for years to come.

  19. Note to self, what the fuck are you doing even clicking on the talk backs for a movie you haven’t seen. Idiot.

  20. A lot of the characters in these supernatural films are hysterical halfwits. They give ‘evil’ way too much credit when, as Eddie Murphy succinctly put it, they should just get the fuck out of the house. Run away. Disown your cold controlling witch of a mother before she puts a demonic curse on your family. Abort the son of Satan. But I’m a spiritual pragmatist so what do I know?

    But I do love a creepy, atmospheric horror film that doesn’t feel the need to explain everything. HEREDITARY kept me interested by holding it’s cards close to it’s black twisted heart. Little moments that made no initial sense, like at grannies funeral service where a weird blonde man smiles knowingly at Charlie, telling us he(or Aster) knows something we and her don’t.

    As for the hype, this is no THE EXORCIST, but it’s style and strangeness reminded me of one I saw recently THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, though that falls more accurately into the art-house horror genre.

  21. I’ve got to see this still, but CinemaScore strikes me as a totally worthless metric. Tons of movies get A-s or As that don’t rack up tons of box office, and I highly doubt most people would give them an A- or A years later.

  22. BrianB – CinemaScore is only worth mentioning when it’s really low. Those can be interesting, weird movies that are infuriating for casual just-going-to-escape moviegoers who don’t want to see something unusual. There were alot of articles about it last year when mother! got an F. Only 19 movies had at that time, and the list included THE BOX, BUG, SOLARIS and WOLF CREEK. Also I KNOW WHO KILLED ME, THE WICKER MAN and KILLING THEM SOFTLY. Movies that got a D include terrible ones like BATTLEFIELD EARTH, but also THE AMERICAN, AMERICAN PSYCHO, THE COUNSELOR, EYES WIDE SHUT, HAYWIRE, KNOCK OFF, THE LIFE AQUATIC, PUNCH DRUNK LOVE, RAVENOUS, SPLICE, SUMMER OF SAM, VAMPIRES, VANILLA SKY, THE WEATHER MAN and WILLARD.

    So getting a low CinemaScore has become a badge of honor in certain circles, and I think here it’s relevant to show the gap between critics and whoever the CinemaScore audience is because it suggests a movie that mainstream audiences might reject for being too strange or challenging or whatever.

  23. CinemaScore is a reflection of expectations (based on marketing and trailers) versus what the moviegoer actually got. If the movie isn’t what they expected, score tends to be low. Most people expect all horror movies to be “The Conjuring” and anything that deviates get the lowest scores.

  24. I thought BUG was shit, but I might’ve been influenced by how it’s a much different movie than it was marketed as…plus my age was younger. I kind of doubt I’d love it though.

    The others listed many of them have become cult classics in their own rights. To me, that devalues the metric. For instance, I bet A CLOCKWORK ORANGE would’ve gotten a low cinemascore too, but so what? It made money and continues to make money. THE SHINING probably would’ve also because omg it’s slow slow, or sour book readers shitting on it. To me, the metric is flawed not just because good movies get really low scores but because, apparently unless you hit an A+, it doesn’t seem to predict anything positive that reliability. OVERBOARD and SOLO both have A-s, and both seem like flops. RAMPAGE seems like it did fine, but it’s not burning things down. Meanwhile, A QUIET PLACE with a B+ has been a clear box office success. SUICIDE SQUAD got a B+ and did bad. BLADE RUNNER 2049 (which I liked and the critics liked) got an A- but underperformed.

    Unless a movie already has a built in fanbase from it’s IP or gets like an A+, I’m not sure how strongly cinemascores correlate to anything. (Though it does seem that any big franchise that gets an A or A+ becomes a huge hit, e.g. Rogue One, Last Jedi, Avengers Age of Ultron, etc.)

  25. Joke with a spoiler…

    If Toni Collette gets nominated for an Oscar, I am confident she will be the only Oscar nominee who cuts her own head off in a movie. Wouldn’t it be cool if they showed that clip at the oscars. “Toni Collette, Hereditary.” Chop, plop.

    She had a few scenes that made my jaw drop. Her reaction to finding out Her daughter died. Holy shit, her unloading on her son at the dinner table. Her reaction to the first seance. Her getting the husband to throw the book in the fireplace. I did sniffle quite a bit, grin like an idiot quite a bit. It was a supernova of a performance and she better get nominated. The son very well should get a supporting actor nomination too.

    I just watched Veronica a Mexican horror flick on Netflix from The guy who made rec. Another ouija board movie. Definitely worth the watch.

  26. Thanks, steven. I was hoping there was something like that in there.

    Re: the Is-Charlie-Paimon questions… I get the feeling I don’t have a lot of company here in seeing this movie as a metaphor for mental illness. But if the son killed his sister in a tragic, random, totally-his-fault accident that left him in such a state of shock that his response was to go to bed without telling anybody… if he’s already skating close enough to the edge, it would probably be a pretty comforting thing to be able to say to himself “Wow, so she wasn’t *ever* my sister! In fact, it turns out I was doing us all a favor by killing her because *I* was supposed to be the King of Hell this whole time, and now, the spirit that wound up in her body by mistake can be in mine, where it’s always belonged!” In other words, I think Ann Dowd’s monologue at the end is not explaining the plot of the movie, therapist-in-Psycho style. I think it is the son’s crazy side convincing the rest of his mind to let it take over. And by then he’s all too glad to give it free reign.

    Then again, maybe it’s me who is the crazy one.

  27. Probably vague **SPOILERS**

    I went in with high expectations, and this film was not what I thought, and that is a good thing. I enjoyed this one immensely.

    I’ve heard it compared to ROSEMARY’S BABY, and there’s definitely something to that comparison, but despite the undeniable plot similarities, this film is fresh and offers an original icognography and mythology. Among its many unsettling images, character exchanges, and emotional beats, the most powerful ones feel utterly alien and original. The film plays with the tropes of psychological horror, haunted house horror, satanic cult ritual horror, and moody arty slow-burn horror, bringing them together into a weird, cohesive whole that is more than the sum of these labels.

  28. I went to see this based on reading 7/8s of this first. I totally thought it was “one of those controversial slow-burn-not-much-happens ones”. I was bored for a long time before much happened. If I hadn’t heard about the decapitation that might have been fuel to keep my interest for a while, but the son and the father should have gotten the hell out WAY before things went so far south. There was tension but it was unpleasant. I like Toni Collette a lot so your recommendation of that helped get me there as well. Holy shit does she deserve an Oscar. That said, ew no to this whole movie. It was fu*ked up in a WHY-did-I-pay-to-watch-this way. Majorly fu*ked up. Not my thing.

  29. Goddammit. I tried, you guys. I really did.

    I wanted to like it. It’s got some great parts, mainly the sequence with the decapitation and aftermath, but it’s about six hours too long and every scene is just more of the same, to increasingly diminishing returns. By the 40th blubbering Toni Collette monologue, I was just numb to it all. The climax is fine but it’s not worth the wait for just another play on THE WICKER MAN plot, especially one as simultaneously vague and ham-fisted as this one. Its loose ends and mysteries are not evocative, because the movie vacillates between eliding over crucial details and vomiting exposition right in your face. It tells you just enough to know that it’s not telling you enough.

    I’d probably respect the film a lot more (I doubt I’d ever actually like it) without all this ludicrous hype. I swear some critics willfully forgot every horror movie they ever saw before they sat down to write their reviews. How does a movie with mirror scares, skittering sped-up demons, ghosts that disappear when the lights come on, seances with candles and moving drinking glasses, a ghostly bouncing ball, and a goddamn classroom scene explaining the thematic thrust of the movie…how does all this get praised as a film that eschews horror cliches? I don’t even have a problem with horror cliches. Horror cliches are just fine with me. But don’t blow smoke up my ass. Sell me what’s actually there, not this easily debunked falsehood. I get that you all got excited to anoint a new horror classic. But you’re not doing the movie any favors with these outrageous claims it could never hope to live up to.

    Worst of all, this movie made me agree with Rex Reed. I don’t think I can ever forgive that.

  30. Count me as another one who liked it a lot more during the slow burn portions. By the time the dad immolated himself via magic book, I knew I was watching a movie that was not as interested in the inner lives of its characters as the first act made it appear. Like, I get that it’s a horror movie and so crazy shit has to escalate, but I feel like the first 40 or so minutes promised a movie that the rest didn’t care to deliver.

    Not that it wasn’t entertaining throughout, but by the end all I was interested in was the plot and unraveling the mystery, whereas at the start I cared about the themes, story, and characters.

    @Mr. Majestyk: Agreed about the horror cliches. I was especially annoyed by the mom’s line that “we made a pact with something and let it into this house!” The actress can sob and emote all she wants to try and sell it, but that’s still a boilerplate line that I’d have expected to hear in the trailers for schlock like, say, The Other Side of the Door, or whatever.

  31. The line is similar to what would be in another movie, but the delivery and context are entirely different. Gabriel Byrne is living in the real world where that type of shit is ludicrous. At this point in the movie he’s supposed to be convinced, but she sounds like a total nut. We know that she’s right because we’re watching a movie, but he’s correct to think “wow, I really have lost my wife,” and she even understands that, which is why she’s almost laugh/crying while trying to explain it. This is not how it normally plays out, and one reason why it feels fresh.

  32. It didn’t feel fresh to me, but different strokes and all that. I’m glad it worked for you.

  33. Like I said, the cliches don’t bother me. This is a complex story that’s more interested in sensation than in sense, so cliches save time and space for the good stuff. There’s more than enough exposition in here so I’m okay with the film using some horror shorthand to get its point across. I just wish I hadn’t been sold this bill of goods about how shockingly original it all was. I know it’s stupid to keep letting the mindless hype machine affect my viewings of these hipster horror movies but goddammit, I would like to occasionally share the world’s excitement about my favorite genre, and all these bogus claims keep stealing that from me.

    There’s nothing bad about the movie and a lot that’s good. It’s really just the repetition. The movie keeps banging on that one key for so long that by the time it tries changing up its tune, it’s too late. Collette’s performance is great from moment to moment but cumulatively it’s self-defeating. There’s only so much hysterics I can take before my sympathy turns to malice. Honestly, I was already suppressing some chuckles during the post-decapitation breakdown. (My friend whom I saw the movie with has always hated Collette for what I used to think were inexplicable reasons, but when the movie ended, I turned to her and said “Okay, I get it now.”) And it’s not like these (perfectly understandable, if numbing to watch) hysterics ever led to a mad crescendo that never gave you time to breathe. Even after the final freakout, they just went back to another protracted eerie hallway scene that was too mechanical and clinical to generate much suspense. Merely holding a shot too long is not enough when you’ve used that same trick a hundred times already. The climax would need to get a lot crazier than it does to merit a buildup like that, and it would need a lot more watertight of a plot it if planned to give me that much time to think about it. Most of the unanswered questions are easily filled in, but others are devastating to suspension of disbelief. Like why was the demon in Charlie to begin with? They seem to claim that because Bad Grandma wasn’t allowed near the son when he was little, she was forced to stick the demon in the daughter. Yet Grandma was fuckin’ dead and headless in the attic while this ritual was going on, so it doesn’t seem like proximity to the host is a factor. So what was she waiting for? I think one of the most overlooked but debilitating logic problems a story can have is “Why is this happening now and not earlier?” The movie offers no satisfactory explanation and it creates a domino effect with suspension of disbelief. This might not have been a problem (I can go with the flow if the payoff is worth it) if they hadn’t been smacking me in the face with a shovel about how seriously I’m supposed to be taking all this.

    What a disappointment. So much good stuff in here and they blew it.

  34. Also, I can’t believe motherfuckers fell for that tongue click shit. It’s so trite and obvious. Like, whatever, it’s a small thing and it didn’t bother me at the time, because if trite and obvious was a dealbreaker I’d never watch movies. I just don’t understand how people thought it was scary or even memorable. Why? The only time it’s even SUPPOSED to be scary is in the car, where it’s not even a tenth as scary as the part with the clapping in THE CONJURING that it was clearly inspired by. Is it just the easiest part to make into a meme, and everybody loves memes because it means they don’t have to come up with anything to say?

    I don’t know, man. I’m willing to give this emperor guy a chance but I think I’d feel more comfortable with him if he’d put some clothes on.

  35. ***

    HEREDITARY was weird and creepy as hell. Even if it didn’t scare you or “do it for you,” it was consistently strange, well-acted, suspenseful, visually interesting and at times arresting, had a number of gonzo scenes, and offered a very fresh balance of both leveraging tropes but also subverting them or keeping you guessing whether they mean what you think they mean. I’m not as inclined or effective in marshalling detailed examples or scene-by-scene analysis, but I think of any number of scenes involving Charlie, the head banging scene in the classroom, the attic scenes, the scenes with ants, the final reveal of the various cultists, weird guy at the funeral, the scene when the immolated father is discovered and everything thereafter. People complain about the inconsistent and erratic pacing (slower for the first hour, then wacko escalation and reveals the last 20 minutes) was in my opinion a strength. It’s a rope-a-dope approach. The film generally keeps you guessing just how it’s going to break or even what subgenre of horror/suspense it’s going to shake out as until the last 15-20 minutes, and yet, when it does reveal its hand, it makes sense in light of everything that went before it and indeed invites reflection and repeat viewings to suss out the layers and hints.

    I’m astounded that anyone could defend the derivative, all-jump-scares / no substance, cynical jerk-off that was IT and then accuse this thing of being trite and unimaginative. The hate this film is getting is largely a function of people’s miscalibrated expectations (perhaps driven by misleading marketing, I didn’t watch any TV spots) and their misclassification of this film as a failed haunted house jump scare-fest. It’s not intended to be a jump scare-fest, though it has some of those.

  36. I never said the movie was trite and unimaginative. I said the tongue clicking thing was trite and obvious. The rest of the movie, while it didn’t really work for me, could not be described as trite or particularly obvious in relation to the rest of the genre. I just did not find ita storytelling or horror-generating techniques more than sporadically effective. It had a lot going for it, more than most horror, but it didn’t keep my interest all the way through the way many “lesser” horror movies (including IT) do.

  37. Also, I’ve no doubt I was influenced by the truly ludicrous hype, but I knew it was ludicrous and actually tried to pitch my expectations really, really low. Even then, I can admit to its strengths while finding the movie kind of tedious. This “It’s basically a melodrama you’d never watch in a million years but with a horror story superimposed on it for like 15 minutes” approach just doesn’t really work for me. I’d rather watch a straight horror movie with desceptively deep subtext (DAWN OF THE DEAD, for instance) than one that puts that shit front and center. That’s true for me across all genres and mediums. I like entertainment that hooks me with the sugar coating and then tricks me into eating my vegetables. That’s why there’s an inherent aesthetic disagreement between me and this whole generation of horror.

  38. If you didn’t enjoy it, you didn’t enjoy it, and so be it. When I watch a film like MULHOLLAND DRIVE, TREE OF LIFE, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, or the REVENANT (just to name a random smattering), I get it. Like those magic eye pictures where you see something once you lock into it the right way, I “see” what these films are trying to do, and I enjoy what they do. It’s not about being in the hip highbrow club. A boilerplate CONJURING film or IT or CREED or IRON MAN or FREDDY VS JASON is designed to provide crowd-pleasing escapism by taking a person though a reasonably linear and conventionally paced, formulaically plotted journey where archetypal or downright stereotypical characters are drawn in broad strokes to trigger unambiguous identifications and wish fullfilment scenarios linked to simple, on-the-nose emotions: “I want them to fall in love.”; “I want them to get that awful bandit!” “I want to see what kind of fucked up kills Jason will do this time!”; “Rocky or Creed needs to overcome the odds and his own self-doubt.” When they hit their marks, these cliched formulae work. I love ROCKY IV, JASON X, and, yes, BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY. Some of these films approach true greatness by finding new notes, beats, or angles.

    Films like HEREDITARY or MULHOLLAND DRIVE or TREE OF LIFE or WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE work by doing weird, unexpected shit and playing with the formulae or tropes and by testing your patience and attention span. Yes, they do weird, non-linear, unevenly paced, idiosyncratic, and at times narratively/consciously inexplicable incongruous stuff or just bonkers things that are like a lucid dream. Some people just see lazy incoherence, throwing random arty shit around a la Jackson Pollock. I don’t see it that way. I see true masters who are deliberately subverting your expectations, playing with pacing, emotions, genre conventions, tropes, character identification, and even your sense of what is real or what something is supposed to mean. They are doing this to circumvent or augment your conscious, semantic, narrative, cognitive experience by getting into deep, weird, pre- or sub-verbal unconscious shit. They do not evoke simple anger, fear, sadness, humor. Yes, they do evoke those things, but they evoke all of them, sometimes evoking incompatible or strange emotional combinations in short succession. And all along there are strange, nuanced undercurrents of complex emotional priming: dread, a sense of the uncanny, confusion, puzzlement, frustration, boredom or struggle to sustain attention, disbelief, a false sense of complacency, anguish. All of this is done with a high level of care, craft, risk-taking, and deliberation. These are masters who know what they are doing, and I think the films repay anyone who is willing to be pushed outside of the comfort zone of boilerplate genre conventions and templates with their stock characters, dualistic characterizations, and formulaic arcs.

    My appreciation of HEREDITARY and disdain for IT is not a function of arty vs. pop sensibilities. It comes down to lazy, mechanical implementation of formula but with good production values vs. something that is weird and unexpected and horrifying and unnerving in weird ways. HEREDITARY captures true dread and the uncanny in strange ways and it consistently keeps you off balance, lulling you into a sense of complacency and even pushing you to the edge of boredom and then knowing just the right time or place to hit you with something puzzling, strange, unnerving, or just off-the-chain wtf?! bonkers.

    You’re more than entitled to your subjective exprience Majestyk, but I sometimes feel that your curmudgeonly insistence on films obeying expectations or conventions or delivering promised, stereotyped emotional beats and payoffs according to standard, conventional plot pacing is depriving you of some rich and enjoyable experiences. Just a thought.

  39. When did I say I wanted it to be more conventional? I like what works. If formula works for a movie, great. If breaking it works, even better. In this case, I would have liked it more if it had been weirder, not more conventional. I like weird. I don’t know where I gave the impression that I don’t. I wish I could have the experience you had, where you lock into the movie and it just…works. As is. This one didn’t do it for me. It still happens, believe it or not, but I think I’m falling out of the zeitgeist. I don’t know how to pick ‘em anymore.

  40. That’s fair. What about the NINTH GATE? That’s older, but did that one work for you?

    I don’t know what the zeitgeist is right now. I’m not really into CONJURING films. I’m on the fence about the next HALLOWEEN. SPLIT was pretty good, but I liked it less the more I reflected on it. Obviously, I didn’t love IT. STRANGER THINGS is pretty fun. BONE TOMAHAWK was a winner. GET OUT, also. I’ve liked Ti West(ern) stuff. Didn’t see THE WITCH. LORDS OF SALEM was a mixed bag. HAPPY DEATH DAY was a lot of fun. I’m not clear which of these defines or is in the sweet spot of the zeitgeist.

  41. Is it agreed that it’s a family melodrama with a little bit of horror? That seems to be how multiple people have described it here, but it is just not how I saw the movie at all. I would guess that if you compared it to POLTERGEIST it would be a higher percentage of horror shit happening, wouldn’t it? Not that it would need to be.

  42. If you have to put this film in some kind of super-genre, then it’s absolutely horror, no question. I have no idea how you could with a straight face say that this is more of family melodrama than it is horror. If that’s the case, then THE SHINING is more family melodrama or tragedy than it is horror. At most, you could say HEREDITARY is a horror film rooted in family melodrama or something.

    This is an interesting question to raise that is definitely semantic but by no means purely semantic. The difficulty or disagreement about how to classify this film is also directly driving many people’s frustration and disappointment with it. This is part of what I’m talking about above with respect to genre. You can take the nominalist view and say that genre is just whatever arbitrary, imperfect label we slap on a film based on other prior films to which it seems most similar in content themes or plotting. It’s a post hoc, crude, descriptive exercise in binning movies into piles. Or you can take a realist view and say that super-genres or sub-genres aren’t just labels but they are real packages of formulae and rules that govern and prescribe what makes a film work, amounting to a kind of playbook. In other words, something like, “Haunted house film x doesn’t work because the jump scares aren’t scary enough”; “Slasher film y doesn’t work because the kills aren’t grisly enough or the killer isn’t distinct enough”; “Romantic comedy doesn’t work because they guy who gets the gal isn’t as winning as the one who loses her.”

    This film doesn’t work for many people precisely because it–intentionally, as far as I can see–mashes up and transcends thematic elements, character arcs, emotional tones, and tropes of numerous horror sub-genres and other genres (black comedy, family melodrama, mental health drama, coming of age drama, teen movie) into a cohesive and surprising whole that can’t be successfully pigeonholed into or reduced to any one of these genres or sub-genres. Yes, it is a horror film with elements of the satanic, supernatural, haunted house, psychological, comedic, surreal, melodrama, but it is really more and other than these things, and our inability to give it a cogent label speaks directly to its singular creativity. It’s its own beast, and people who came in it expecting it to hit the usual notes that a given sub-genre music sheet would prescribe don’t know what the hell to do with it and are in many cases sorely disappointed.

  43. Man, for somebody decrying the practice of putting films in boxes, you sure are fine with putting viewers in them. There’s no need for a grand conspiracy about why some people didn’t like a film you did. It’s just different tastes. I never said this wasn’t a horror movie—it’s very obviously a horror movie, full stop. It’s just that there’s a focus on melodrama and histrionics and sadness, and that becomes wearying for me. There’s the problem of diminishing returns. If someone you know freaks out once, you’re full of concern and compassion. Twice, you start seriously worrying. It happens every day and never stops, you eventually just start to resent them, despite your best intentions. I got to that point somewhere around the second seance scene. I emotionally disengaged from the drama because it was too one-note and repetitive, and I didn’t think the genre material was strong enough to balance it. That’s got nothing to do with “Oh, he just wanted more jump scares” (I don’t give a fuck if I ever see another jump scare in my life, and in fact many of the jump scares in HEREDITARY were derivative and cliched. I could have used fewer, not more) and I’d imagine a lot of the people who didn’t care for it felt the same way. It’s real easy to assume that anyone who disagrees with you “just doesn’t get it” because then you never have to engage with other points of view, and you also get to reward yourself for being one of the enlightened ones who do get it. I was open to whatever the movie wanted to be. All I wanted to be was entertained. That’s all I want from any movie. I respect the attempt and don’t have anything bad to say about the filmmakers, but it just didn’t get there for me. Why’s that so hard to swallow? Why you gotta judge me and not the movie? If you need to protect your love of the film so badly that you have to put me in a box with people who have a checklist of formula requirements and get mad when every single one of them isn’t ticked off, I gotta call bullshit on that. That’s not who I am and it’s not what I wanted. (And in any case the film checks off PLENTY of genre requirements. A bird commits suicide against a window for god’s sake! That’s Random Spooky Happening #4 in the Big Book Of Horror Cliches. #1 is “Dog Reacts To Unseen Entity.” Also in here.) You can love a movie unconditionally without turning its critics into a lesser class of viewer. We’re better than that here.

  44. Majestyk, at the risk of eliciting even more defensiveness: I don’t understand why you are being so defensive.

  45. Because I keep explaining myself and you keep handwaving it away. You’ve spent way more time criticizing the audience for this movie than you have explaining what you love about it. It is entirely possible for two intelligent people with reasonable expectations to have completely different reactions to a movie, and I don’t think your focus on what’s wrong with the people who disagree with you is at all helpful to the conversation. I see this a lot nowadays, from “If you didn’t like THE LAST JEDI, you must be a sexist neckbeard” on one end of the spectrum to “If you like FAST & FURIOUS, you must be a moron” on the other. It’s all bullshit. People are complicated and so are their reactions to art. You can’t assume anything about a person just because he or she didn’t have the same reaction to a movie that you did. Stick to expressing your own opinion and stop worrying about how I developed mine.

  46. I ain’t mad at you, though, Skani. I just hate being misunderstood more than just about anything else in life, and I especially can’t stand it when there’s more discussion of the motives of an argument than its merits. I realize I did a little speculation of my own about the cause of all the critical praise, and I regret that. I can’t speak to where anyone else is coming from and it’s foolish to try. I should have just stuck to my own points, which I think are constructive and not knee-jerk “I didn’t get what I want so I’m gonna pout about it” entitlement. If you disagree, call me on them. I’d love to dig in and hear a different perspective on the nuts and bolts of the film.

  47. Aw fuck it. You’re probably right. This has happened too many times lately for me to continue believing that I’m not the one with the problem. I keep swearing I’m not all about negativity, but you wouldn’t know it from what I choose to express. I’m not trying to piss anybody off or hijack conversations, but I apparently can’t help it, so I’m gonna take a break until I figure out how to talk to people again. Say goodnight to the bad guy.

  48. Majestyk – I hope your break isn’t very long. We appreciate having you around here. Don’t make us fly to Thailand to find you living in a Buddhist monastery and working as a stick fighter.

  49. Just popping back in to say thanks, Vern. I know I’ve been a drama queen lately and I appreciate everyone’s patience. Let’s just say the midlife crisis is not going well.

  50. I appreciate you, Majestyk.

  51. Dammit Skani must you drive away everything good and pure!?*

    Mr. M: Good luck.

    *just kidding btw…

  52. Does a mid-life crisis ever go well?

  53. For what its worth, it’s the first film in years I’ve been compelled to see twice during its initial run. I honestly can’t remember the last time I did that.

  54. Okay i´am pretty late with cashing in my two cents on HEREDITARY because i missed it on the big screen so i had to wait for it´s home “video” release to catch up on it. Seeing it for the third time by now and reading an interview that Ari Aster gave to Total Film Magazine
    (“Seeing the film, it’s all there,” Aster told them. “But there’s a certain degree of irresolution in the resolution.”) i would say that this was meant to be made exclusively for decoding purposes only. Sure you can watch it with that “haunted house thrill ride”-approach but everybody who does so (i did the same mistake on the first watch) will either be confused or dissapointed (most of the people i know felt both). It felt as if Aster had left me high and dry on purpose but that´s just his way to seperate the sheep from the goats.
    All those people who are ranting against it with completely overkill won´t go back and watch it for a second time.
    Aster really did a great job in placing symbolic clues and hints all over the place. The whole thing is so very well arranged, the subtle camera fading between the diorama and real set pieces, the weird stuff that is happening out of frame…he is mastercrafting the hell out of it. The final shot of the Paimon Treehouse Party made me smile cause it came with such an heavy “Wes Anderson Vibe”.
    So Charlie was already being “paimoned” by birth, which explains here outerwordly behaviour and Alex Wolffs final facial expression: He has to play a demonic revenant king that is being possessed by his sisters who looks exactly like that actress Milly Shapiro but inside the body of some spaced out stoner boy.
    I guess this isn´t the everyday role description you expect when walking into the casting. So according to such circumstances i think he did a great job staring at the audience with his “pale paimon eyes”.
    I bet i would look the same after an 16 hour flight but it´s a whole different thing if you happen to be a former king of hell who is now forced to fly around as some kind of glowworm totally depending on the help from his faithful disciples to find him a proper, healthy human vessel he can slip into. If i had promised my boss to pick him up from the airport only to let him wait there, then showing up nude with a fifty year time delay AND the wrong vessel at hand…I bet it would feel awkward on both sides.
    I think Paimon´s okay with waiting. For a demon this is a kind of luxury. His old colleague Azazel died only seconds after he got pulled out of his vessel comfort zone by some angry guy called Denzel Washington who happened to be one of the few humans that are not easy to vessel with. Every demon king knows the old sayings:
    “Never wrestle with your vessel.” or
    “If your vessel doesn´t fit, don´t say goodbye and better split.”
    Another nice detail was the fact that Annes father rather starved himself to death then playing the host for some demonic acquaintance that his crazy wife and her occultist entourage invited without even asking.
    “Honey? Would you please stop putting all those people into our son?”
    So in the end there isn´t much i would declare nitpick-worthy except maybe one thing:
    If they got this all planned from the beginning why should they even bother to sacrifice Paimon/Charlie in such a complicated manner:
    “TEAM ONE will infiltrate the party to coordinate the nuts into the allergic girls system. At the same time TEAM TWO will prepare some road kill on the street but remember to place it in the perfect angle that can be calculated by using the equation we came up with: Vehicle speed times weight of the carcass times mass of the wooden pole (don´t you forget to mark it with our P-Man Tagline – that will be our future trademark everytime we strike) times head weight equals the coordinates for the optimal decapitation spot. After the operation succeeds TEAM THREE will place all the road signs back in the right directions so nobody will know the difference. Got it? Paimon counts on you. Hail Paimon. Lets move out!”
    They could have made an heist movie out of that. Occult 11. Long story short:
    Just show Charlie how to play the piano wire on her own neck. It´s easy to learn but hard to handle. Everybody can do it. Even her mother mastered an impressing skill set on the piano wire without even playing for our team.
    The Grandma even gave her a heads up on that one. And could somebody please tell Mister Aster that the new intern at A24 misspelled the title of the movie and printed it on every single poster?
    It was meant to be called HEADitary and not HEREditary. What is that even suppose to mean. Doesn t make any sense to me!”

  55. Hey guys finally saw this one!!

    I still don’t like Indy-horror!

  56. Let’s all give a slow-clap for our own Mr. Subtlety’s just-posted review of this one here:


    Hereditary (2018) Dir. and written by Ari Aster Starring Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, Gabriel Byrne ...

    Bonus points and claps for using our own Mr. Majestyk as the poster-boy for the disgruntled horror fan.

  57. Being the voice of a generation is a heavy burden, but it’s one I’ve shouldered my whole life.

    I particularly appreciated the observation that the climax of the movie could have happened at pretty much any time. Nothing our protagonists do causes it to come about, nothing they’ve been going through affects it at all, and it only happens when it does because that’s where the third act needs to be. It articulates why I felt so disconnected from the film for so much of the running time: None of this means anything. We’re just biding time until the old naked people can get the permits for the big possession scene from the town office. You know what a clusterfuck it is down there with all the paperwork. They wanted to schedule the possession for the 45-minute mark but then their subcontractor who was supposed to install the mood lighting in the treehouse stopped returning their calls so they had to fill up the time with a couple of seances and research scenes. Don’t worry, they still billed you for those hours, though. You can’t really fault the craftsmanship but I would not recommend hiring these particular old naked people for a job of this magnitude if you have any kind of hard deadline.

  58. Tons of spoilers. This is a wall of text, and it is poorly edited, but I think there are real and important to me points of substance here.

    Subtlety’s essay is a very fine piece of writing, full of great insights. At the same time, I think you guys are dead wrong with respect to many of the faults you ascribe to the movie.

    For example, I disagree strongly that fatalistic horror can’t work or is inferior to horror that injects agency. A lot of the best horror is ultimately fatalistic, and the tension between agency and fatalism is part of what makes horror great.

    Moreover, it’s fine to say that you disagree with the artistic or philosophical choice of adopting a fatalistic narrative, but how can you project a lack of suspense onto the first two-thirds of the film based on the last third, unless you guessed the last third in real-time, which would have been very difficult for such a jarring, bonkers third act? Suspense and tension are not retroactive subjective experiences like, say, regret: they emerge from our in-the-moment epistemic uncertainty about what lies beyond the horizon or under the surface.

    Which brings me to my next objection. A major criticism Subtlety makes is that the first 2/3 of the film somehow don’t add up to anything or are a cheat, because they create a lot of emotional complexities and layers in Toni Collette’s personal journey that amount to unresolved loose ends–she never gets closure or achieves transcendence or insight or interpersonal resolution. That is what makes it fucking horrifying!!! That, like all of us, she lives a life full of dreams, fears, insecurities, stories she tells herself, scripts she plays out, and strivings for control and transcendence, only to see all of it unravel and come to nothing, ultimately being outsmarted and manipulated by sinister forces of which she is aware on some level but not enough to see the big picture and do anything.

    This family full of beautifully quirky, humanely crafted and textured, often-poignant, often-mundane lives is set up, and then utterly subverted–literally decapitated, immolated, and/or possessed by outside forces. All of the foreplay of the first 2/3 is part of what is intended to make the last 1/3 so jarring and horrific. These things should not be happening. It’s not what we expect, and it’s not fair. It subverts our natural desire and intuition that Toni Collette’s dreams matter, and that her kids’ dreams and promise matter, and that all of this deserves an uplifting resolution. It subverts our natural desire to see at least someone–possibly, the youth of the film–live to fight another day and live a liberated life.

    Finally, I don’t subscribe to the view that this film requires a fatalistic reading. In his interviews, the filmmaker (Aster) suggests that the film is ultimately fatalistic and that there is no hope of Toni Collette “winning.” He’s entitled to that opinion, but I don’t subscribe to the theory that the filmmaker has the authoritative intpretation of what the film means–unless s/he can demonstrate that this is the only interpretation consistent with what the film itself shows us or implies.

    Which is to say: I don’t think the film itself suggests or requires an ultimately fatalistic interpretation. It’s about getting caught up in your own myopic, egocentric identity and stream of consciousness and completely missing the bigger picture of what’s happening around you and which is bigger than just you and your little narrative you write where you are the star and it’s all about you.

    Toni Collette is so consumed in her own immediate emotional noise or trauma that she’s not seeing the bigger picture of how these dots are connecting: the grief of her mom’s death, the trauma and hurt and confusion that her mom inflicted, the tension with her son, the homicidal sleepwalking impulses, the cold distance from her husband, the apparent mental illness and death of her brother, her mother’s “secrets,” her mother’s strange and insidious attachment to the grandchildren, all the people at her mom’s funeral who are unfamiliar and diverse in age and life station. She’s failing to make coherent meaning of everything happening around her precisely because she is mistakenly treating individual traumatic events, strange encounters, or anomalies as isolated, unrelated episodes or trivia and failing to see them as part of a greater whole that is connecting them and that transcends her personal narrative or subjective trauma. She is seeing things situationally, egocentrically, and ad hoc, and she is failing to see that there is a wider universe of interrelation and cause-and-effect in her overall family system that is playing out beyond her immediate subjective mood and personal trauma.

    She is failing to see that the shit that is happening most definitely concerns her but is bigger than her and not just about her. The same is true for her husband and son, each of whom is preoccupied with his own shit: her son with school, friends, parties, pot, an pussy; her husband with being the calm, rational, grounded secular humanist middle-class psychiatrist who needs to mollify and mitigate things for his unstable wife (withholding from her the true nature of the call from the cemetery). This is all beautifully ironic, because Collette puts herself in the role of master shaper, meaning-maker, and storyteller (via her art), when in fact she has no fucking clue that–much, less how– all of these disparate anomalies and episodes interconnect and she has actively fueled disengagement and alienation from her family that leads her to misread or simply miss what is happening around her. She can’t see the forest of this familial, multi-generational saga for the trees of her immediate, myopic, egocentric viewpoint.

    What makes the film so effective is that everyone is so caught up in their own developmental life crises and personal narratives and assumptions about how the world works that there is no effective communication among them or ability to lay the pieces out together or work together. They’re all very isolated from each other, caught up in their own shit, and generally neglecting or dismissing the others’ point of view or life circumstances. They are divided and conquered.

    Those oustide forces co-opt and dissolve their lives, and all of their hopes, dreams, pet projects, preoccupations, and pathetic construals of what things mean are left dangling and unresolved. Indeed, they are obliterated.

    This film engages a lot with the search for control and for meaning, and it is not until the last act that you learn that there is meaning to what is happening but that there is not control. There are answers and things do make sense, just not the answers you wanted, and no concomitant control.

    Actually, maybe there *is* control or at least the potential for control (contra what Aster himself says), it’s just that Toni got outsmarted by grandma’s long con. Part of the theme in the film is that Toni Collette has known on some level that her mom is up to something for many years and has, in fact, successfully if subconsciously protected her family and staved off her mom’s schemes and overtures, just as her brother successfully staved off their mom’s advances, even if it did result in his ultimate death. He still won and determined his own fate, albeit tragically. The point is, Aster does not own the definitive interpretation of the film, and one legitimate reading is that Toni Collette’s fatal mistake is underestimating her mom and letting her guard down, withdrawing into her own world that she is trying to control and, in the process, failing to understand or exert real agency in the actual life that she is fixated on feebly, solipsistically modeling up in her attic.

  59. First off, thanks to you guys for taking the time to read that long-ass rant, and thanks to Geoffreyjar for posting it. I hate self-promotion but it’s always a bummer to put a lot of work into something and then never have anyone read it or interact with it. So I really deeply appreciate your engagement.

    Second, to Sanki — I suppose I don’t disagree with anything you wrote, I can only report how it struck me. Obviously Aster really believes in the gut-punch horror of the loss of control. Plenty of people seem to have found this film really scary, so obviously he’s hit on something there. Horror, like humor, is a pretty slippery, subjective thing. And horror and suspense are certainly not the same thing; there’s not even necessarily any crossover. But to me, a fixed fight isn’t a very suspenseful or exciting thing to watch, and, whatever you may think Toni Colette may or may not have been able to do before that, once she throws the notebook into the fire, no one even gestures towards the idea that they might be able to help themselves. To me, it’d be like if in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, they just capture Sally, tie her up, torture her for 20 minutes, and then kill her, and the credits roll. Not really much real narrative tension to hang onto there. Not really much narrative in general, really.

    Which would be fine enough in a grand guignol way, but it’s kinda a bummer when the drama here is actually pretty good. To me, the idea of deliberately undermining that drama to make you feel off-kilter and ambushed by the horror isn’t a good trade-off after that much investment. Even in PYSCHO it doesn’t really work, and at least it pulls that card a lot earlier.

    I’m glad you liked it, though. I hope my review wasn’t too mean, because I actually did like a lot of it, I was just a bit disappointed it didn’t add up to much in the end.

  60. Your review was great! I would have commented there but could not quite my and intuitively identify a way to comment with a guest username. Great analysis and ver y nicely written.

    Funny you should mention PSYCHO, because that was also on my mind as a wonderful narrative innovation — to hook you into identifying with Marion Crane as the protagonist and then sucker punch you hard. Both films apply this tack, which is cruel and uniquely horrific and unsafe. I will grant that the last 25 minutes are pretty weird, and I never begrudge anyone the right to dislike it, but I think it’s a masterful, subversive horror film that, like PSYCHO, is ahead of its time and its own lane.

  61. Quite my –> quickly

  62. I guess I’m just not a big fan of that trick. I find it gimmicky and cheap, the kind of lazy thing a Max Landis might think is going to blow a bunch of minds, when it really just amounts to lying to the audience. I don’t think it even really works in PSYCHO, it’s just that the rest of the movie is good enough that it doesn’t matter that the narrative is completely broken. And either way, even Hitchcock didn’t have the balls to have a whole 90 minutes of a two hour movie turn out to be a red herring. Or to have the red herring be the more interesting part.

  63. Hmm. I see it more as an unconventional but deliberate choice than a trick or gimmick. I enjoy movies that experiment with bending or breaking conventional narrative structures and subverting expectations. If this is done competently and with intentionality. To me, it’s the boldness of swapping protagonists–the victim for her killer, no less–that makes PSYCHO the uniquely brilliant and unforgettable cinematic experiment that it is. Agree to disagree, perhaps.

  64. I mean, I definitely agree with you that it was 100% intentionally done with the (stated!) aim of subverting our narrative expectations. There are definitely movies where intentionally breaking the narrative pays off, but in this case, I thought the movie was actually more interesting before it went for the rug pull. Not worth the trade to me, but, as you say, your mileage may vary.

    In general, I think I’m usually against rug pulls. Faking an audience out still feels like a cheap trick to me. I’m open to less rigid narratives, but I think I prefer something like THE ASSASSIN (2015) which openly flouts narrative convention from the get-go, to something like HEREDITARY, which goes for a sudden switcheroo. I’m trying to think of any case where I was with the movie on a huge seismic shift which ditches most of the movie and banks that the mindfuck will be worth the collateral damage. I can’t come up with any, off the top of my head. Even something that I kinda like and respect, like AFRAID OF THE DARK, still doesn’t quite get there for me. It’s possible this convention just ain’t my bag. See my lengthy rant against GHOST STORIES for a related consideration of mindfuck twists, which present a related problem.

    Ghost Stories (2018) and the Problem Of The Twist

    Ghost Stories (2018 Written and Dir. by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson Starring Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther...

  65. Finally watched this. I enjoyed it considerably. Didn’t outright love it, but found plenty of moments unnerving. FWIW, the movie really freaked out my girlfriend. Colette was great. Some people. Maybe it’s just be but I was more impressed with how she handled this material than Olivia Coleman in THE FAVOURITE (which, tbf, is pretty good as well). My views may be impacted because I quickly moved off interpreting this movie mostly as a family drama or even as a subjective depiction of mental illness/family dysfunction first and foremost (Charlie is too off/creepy, the bird smashing into the window trope, Joan re-appearing for an impromptu gushing confession in the grocery parking lot, etc.), so I can’t really speak for that kind of audience member. You can definitely logic pick apart the movie and it’s ending, Mr. M and Mr. Subtely are on point from what I’ve read in this thread. On the other hand, you can do that with tons of horror movies, even some of the ones people put up as the best. I probably need to re-watch to make a judgement, but at least until Peter gets up after jumping out the window, I found the filmmaking in the last 20 minutes gripping and captivating enough to keep me going. (THE SHINING’s finale is superior, but it’s a similar thing where the movie suddenly gets a lot more energized.)

    I’m sure this has been brought up somewhere already, but, imo, Annie’s history and possibly inherited mental instability feeds into the climax’s plausibility (even if it doesn’t explain why the cult didn’t act sooner) when she doesn’t do the things like call the police, which her husband brings up. It’s a stupid choice, but it’s not something that smacks you in the face as being inconsistent with her character.

    @Mr. Subtlety: Did you find the ending of THE STRANGERS undermined it’s narrative tension? (To be fair, the existing drama probably wasn’t as good as in this movie and that movie doesn’t shift gears as much either.)

  66. I mostly didn’t like Midsommer. It’s way too fucking long. Imagine Texas Chainsaw Massacre but Swedish, two and a half hours long and with some of the most unconvincing gore you’ll ever see.

    The world building is pretty good and the production design is great. The acting is good (one caveat is the acting from the townsfolk was mostly terrible but I blame Ari Aster for that) However, the script sucks, minus a few legit funny moments (both intentional and not intentional). The horror elements are not scary at all. If somebody is scared by this they are dumb. The gore and dead bodies are incredibly unconvincing. And it’s ultimately pointless and has no actual ending.

    Yes, it’s a horror movie but Ari Aster proves he sucks at making horror. Do a 90 min drama dude.

  67. Also, I read Fred’s review of it and he starts off being incredibly condescending to horror fans but I then realize I’m also being just as condescending to horror tourists so we’re even lol

  68. I apologize. If I can change, you can change then we can all change.

  69. Yesterday was Friday the 13th, so I convinced my wife to watch Hereditary for the occasion. I had no clue that (SPOILERS) about thirty minutes in the family’s twelve year old daughter would get decapitated in a horrific accident. It did not go over well. I suggested turning off the movie, but my wife said that nothing they do afterwards would be as bad as that, so we watched the rest. And, you know what? She was right.

    Overall, I like the film, but that moment is so gut-churning and really gets at some of the random fears you can have as a parent, that it sort of blunts the impact of everything that came afterwards. I wonder if that’s one of the reasons why people here seemed to react more strongly to the first half than the second half. My biggest problem with the film is that some of the aftermath of the decapitation felt false. For instance, Toni Collette gave her all here, but Gabriel Byrne acts like nothing really happened. And I can’t imagine that their son would have been back to school so quickly. So I guess I disagree that the family drama was all that well done. I guess I enjoyed the more “traditional” horror parts of the film better. But, overall, I liked what the director was trying to accomplish here.

    So that’s my take on a movie that everyone was talking about a year ago.

  70. I’ve seen people process death in completely different ways so it’s not implausible he would go back to school or the father would show little emotion about it. There is no right or wrong way to grieve or go any your life after a death.

    For me the death has no negstive impact on what came after, for me, especially since all the good Toni Collette stuff came after.

  71. Just got done doing the TALKTOBARBENHEIMER challenge, where you own the fact that you’d much rather watch TALK TO ME than either BARBIE or OPPENHEIMER and act accordingly.

    TALK TO ME is good. Weird. Upsetting. Well-constructed. Pretty on-brand for A24 (a bit IT FOLLOWS, which I know is not actually A24). Although I doubt it will make a gang of new converts to A24-entology, there is enough different going for it that I feels different (youthier, slightly hornier, more over in its Australia-ness). A bit HEREDITARY, but also a bit IT FOLLOWS, which is reductive but a useful heuristic as far as you might like it if you liked either of those. That said, it’s very much got it’s own thing going on, I’d say.

  72. Yeah, I’d recommend Talk To Me, with the caveat that partway through it abandons the fun premise and largely becomes a conventional possession/haunting movie, so if that’s not your thing, I don’t know if TTM will win you over. But it’s a pretty good possession movie with a notably clever way to connect the characters to the action instead of just “fuck you, Satan decided to make you his summer home.”

  73. Yeah, I mean the Vernosphere has debated A24 plenty, but it’s a perennial topic, and I think it’s useful to revisit periodically as we age, culture changes, vibes change, we adjust, etc. I think the bottom line is if you like **psychological** horror but also like drama and a lot ambiance and ambiguity (filling in your own blanks, trying out various readings) and a dry-er sense of everything, it’s your kind of thing. If you really want/need more high-energy, loud, colorful, super-horny, greasy, meathead (in the best, most affectionate way), then probably not. And that’s pretty much it. I like both, so, it works for me, and I do think this one feels “spiritually” a little more on the IT FOLLOWS wavelength than the HEREDITARY wavelength, but it’s doing enough of its own thing in terms of tone, mood, conclusion that those are really just anchor points to help locate it. I don’t think it’s derivative or copy-catting but has its own ideas, visuals, viewpoint. This is one that gets better the more I think about it.

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