Aside perhaps from the Halloween and Suspiria re-imaginings slated to hit theaters this fall, no other horror movie in 2018 has received as much hype as Hereditary. Pre-release acclaim more or less promised that Hereditary would scare the shit out of moviegoers: 'The scariest movie in years'; 'This generation's The Exorcist'; ''A modern day horror masterpiece.' Of course, horror movie fans have been promised this all before. So how much is hype, and how much is reality? Here are three non-spoiler things you need to know about Hereditary.
1. Revelations in the trailer are surprisingly minimal.
Horror movie trailers of late tend to reveal too much. Take the Halloween trailer that dropped Friday, for example. In just under three minutes, we learn that Michael Myers has been committed to an asylum for 40 years, we learn how he escapes, how he retrieves his mask and -- most importantly -- how Laurie Strode has prepared for his return in ball-busting fashion. We're also exposed to some highlights from Michael's killing spree. (Don't get me wrong. I'm still going to watch TF out of that movie when it premieres.)
By comparison, the Hereditary trailer reveals little. One might even argue that it obscures the plot more than it divulges. Sometimes, this causes a backlash among horror fans. The trailer for It Comes at Night (also an A24 production) comes to mind, horror fans having felt a considerable bait and switch between the foreboding trailer and the slow-burn (arguably, non-horror) movie. With Hereditary, however, there's no baiting and switching -- just purposeful diversion. In fact, I'm surprised that A24 didn't pull a Hitchcockian stunt to keep some of Hereditary's doozy twists and turns top secret. I won't spoil the main surprise, but I'll describe my own expression during this pivotal scene: eyes wide open, hands cupped over mouth.
2. Hereditary is not just another allegorical film.
Forgive the gross generalizations here, but 'traditional horror movie fans' don't want allegory. They couldn't possibly care less about metaphors and symbolism. They want heavy-hitting violence, gore, high-intensity plots and loads of jump scares. That's why movies like The Babadook and Raw (two movies I love, by the way) have been so divisive, garnering rave reviews from critics while mustering only yawns from fanboys and girls.
Although there are plenty of metaphors to go around in Hereditary (whose questionable 'protagonist' builds model houses inside what is, itself, a model house **ahem***), it's a heavy-hitter with unrelenting creepiness, escalating dread, periodic jumps and plenty of 'what the fuck' moments, all of which are intensified by Grade A acting from the entire cast.
Hereditary could be just another slow burner from A24, but there are several scenes throughout the movie where writer-director Ari Aster drops a little molotov cocktail of fear and dread. Even scenes totally devoid of the supernatural manage to pique viewers' anxiety -- I'm thinking specifically of a scene where Annie (Toni Colette) confronts her son, Peter (Alex Wolff) about a family tragedy.
3. it lives up to the hype -- Mostly.
Often, extreme praise only encourages detractors, as I feel is the case Cinemascore's UNCONSCIONABLE D+ rating for Hereditary. At worst, this movie deserves a B -- though, as a horror freak who's forgiving of movies that are able to bridge art and terror, I admittedly want to shower this movie with oodles of accolades.
Some reviewers have pegged Hereditary as 'a haunted house' movie, a gross misnomer and oversimplification of the true evils that lurk in every nook and cranny around the house and in the family line. The paranormality goes beyond your basic haunting, painting dysfunctional family dynamics with layer upon layer of the occult.
Although it's almost impossible to deliver on all the hyperbolic level of hype critics have bestowed upon Hereditary, I wholeheartedly feel this movie will become canon. It's a movie that, like the sinister secrets of its heroine's maternal family line, will endure.