Be wary of horror films claiming to be the scariest thing since sentient bread. Usually when critics make those kinds of claims they’re only comparing them to those Conjuring movies, which is a bit like opening a pub for Borrowers: setting a very low bar.
The latest film to be heralded “the new Exorcist” (which sounds like a Goop contributor) is Hereditary, an American horror movie about a family (Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Gabriel Byrne) shaken by grief and tragedy and drawn into the world of the occult.
A slow Byrne by anyone’s standards, Hereditary is over two hours and frustratingly feels both too long and as though there are bits missing. Like It Follows director David Robert Mitchell, newcomer Ari Aster seems to think that the trick to making a good horror movie is to make a bad horror movie slowly.
Once it gets to the point, Hereditary swiftly abandons any sense of psychological ambiguity and falls back on tropes so old they literally predate Christianity. Hereditary? More like heard it already.
Meanwhile the picture’s explorations of grief are handled much more effectively in LGBT classic The Babadook, a movie that worked by creating its own dark little world. This attempts something similar but keeps pulling you out of that world with its distracting allusions to other films, ranging from Rosemary’s Baby to Donnie Darko. As such it fails to hang together, feeling more like a jumble of influences than anything original.
That said, the doll’s house visuals are well designed and Collette is wildly effective in the lead role, while Shapiro makes an impact with her birdlike features and more tongue pops than an episode of Alyssa’s Secret.
But the question remains: is this the scariest film you’ll see this year, or are critics just desperate to get their quote on the poster? Well let’s just say Brexiteers aren’t the only ones who print lies on the side of buses.
That’s not to say Hereditary is awful, it’s pretty decent. Just remember that the horror films critics say are good are bad, and the ones they say are great are good. Got it? Good. Now pass it on.