Describe This Movie In One Dumb and Dumber Quote:
LLOYD: Hey, I guess they're right: senior citizens, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Never complain about your weird grandparents again.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 5 Sarah McLachlans out of 5.
Tagline: "Every family tree hides a secret."
Better Tagline: "Blood is thicker than sanity."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: The Graham family just lost Grandma, and it's a bittersweet occasion, because as her daughter Annie (Toni Collette) acknowledges, the old gal was secretive and difficult to live with. And although she finds her lack of sorrow troubling, she still has her hands full with her art career and teenage kids Charlie (Milly Shapiro) and Peter (Alex Wolff). Annie resumes her work, and life starts returning to normal, but troubling incidents gradually lead to the revelation that Grandma was up to some unsavory stuff that will affect the family in devastating ways.
"Critical" Analysis: You've probably already heard this, but the less you know about Hereditary going in, the better. It's a truism that applies to most movies, but it's absolutely the case with Ari Aster's feature debut. For while the general direction is telegraphed fairly early on, the path the movie takes to reach the conclusion is disturbing as hell, often shockingly so.
Like A24's other horror offerings, Hereditary often has an otherworldly quality to it. Only instead of taking place in the wilds of Colonial America (The Witch) or in the aftermath of an unknown cataclysm (It Comes at Night), the Graham family's ordeal is set in the relatively obscure and eerily empty landscapes of Utah. Abetted by Colin Stetson's austere score, Aster leverages both the open spaces and the isolation of the Grahams' forest home for maximum unease.
Because honestly, the movie probably wouldn't work as well if they lived in a split-level ranch in Modesto.
Hereditary also has a nice throwback feel, with the miniature figures and scenes Annie builds giving a Night Gallery vibe that meshes well with the overall story. The plot itself isn't really all that surprising: a great deal of what you suspect is going on will probably turn out to be exactly that, but it's how Aster and company get there that makes the movie so brutally effective. What's the saying; it's the journey, not the destination? Here, both are equally harrowing.
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And while it's true and accurate and not at all tiresome to say awards shows are meaningless, a big part of that derives from their continued unwillingness or inability to recognize genre performances. If anyone can break that cycle, it'll be Collette, who presents Annie's sorrow, grief, rage, and hope with heartbreaking authenticity, making her journey to the precipice of madness that much more tragic.
Blame A24's marketing division for occasionally misrepresenting their product. The Witch and It Comes At Night are certainly horror movies, but distinctly lacking in the kind of shock tactics we've recently associated with the genre. At the outset, Hereditary feels like it's going down a smiliarly atmospheric road, until Aster drops a cinder block on the gas pedal. The final act is a master class in swiftly mounting dread, and the climax is both terrifying and deeply unsettling.
It's finally worth noting the perils of overhyping a movie like this. The build-up to its release feels a lot like that surrounding The Blair Witch Project 19 years ago, only a) the marketing campaign is distinctly less elaborate this time around, and b) Hereditary is much, much scarier. So while too much of anything — including positive word of mouth — is a bad thing, Hereditary really is that damn good.
You could almost say horror ... [puts on sunglasses] ... is in its DNA.