HEREDITARY Review — The Devil May Care, But Should You?

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HEREDITARY Review by Staci Layne Wilson

Have you ever wondered: What if Wes Anderson had directed Rosemary’s Baby? If so, I’ve got just the flick for you. If not, then it’s probably best you avoid Hereditary. Hereditary is quirky, strange and slow (Anderson) with just a smidgen of Satanism (Rosemary) which puts it in a precarious position of being reminiscent of other movies but at the same time, too hollow and cold to become something all its own.

Toni Collette plays Annie, an artist who expresses her grief through her art. She makes disturbing dioramas in miniature of her family’s home, which highlight only sorrow, despair and dysfunction. When we meet her, Annie has just buried her elderly mother. We also meet her supportive but wishy-washy husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), their withdrawn pothead teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff), and their oddball young daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Then we hang around with them for a long while.

Collette’s performance is all-in, but it’s one-note. She played a woebegone mom in The Sixth Sense (for which she was Oscar-nominated) but even in that much-smaller role, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan let her character unfold in interesting layers and the film earned its unforgettable ending thanks to labyrinthine plotting and expert timing. That is not the case in Hereditary.

Writer-director Ari Aster (who’s never made a feature before) has everything down-pat on the surface, but the characters have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. They all simply march zombie-like toward their doom, and we are not made to care about their fates. In the case of Hereditary, and especially in its predictable resolution, we as the audience have nothing to hold onto. We are merely bystanders. There have been a few other “bleak” movies recently released (Mother, The Killing of a Sacred Deer and You Were Never Really Here come to mind) that are much, much better in terms of having the potential to become cult classics.

Plot holes abound. For instance, is there a police department in this town? A body is stolen from a grave but only one person knows about it. A creepy woman hangs around the playground of the school but no one notices. One character commits negligent homicide but is never even questioned.

Having said that, Hereditary is a well-acted, superbly-shot, and nicely-made film in terms of visuals. If you’re interested in it as an exercise in supernatural horror, it does pack a grim and gruesome punch in the end. If you’re curious about all the buzz, by all means see it. (The trailer is pretty great.) But don’t go in expecting the touted best horror film of the year.

Rated R

2 Hours 7 Minutes

Like this HEREDITARY review and want to see it at a theater near you? Get times and tickets at Fandango.com

HEREDITARY Review by Staci Layne Wilson

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Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson is an accomplished writer / director / producer / film critic and the author the bestseller So L.A. - A Hollywood Memoir. Find her on StaciLayneWilson.com

2 Comments

  1. witchita on June 11, 2018 at 10:07 am

    Finally a movie critic that spoke the truth!! Your review is spot on!

    • Brad on June 11, 2018 at 2:34 pm

      I’m a bit surprised by those who feel like this film missed the emotional mark — perhaps Collette was a bit one-note, but she plays the hell out of it. There is some great subtlety and restraint in the writing and performances, which builds to some memorable, explosive moments.

      To address the potential plot holes you identify:

      “For instance, is there a police department in this town? A body is stolen from a grave but only one person knows about it.” This is definitely glossed over, but I can’t say that it’s a major hole — we just lose a scene of questioning from the police.

      “A creepy woman hangs around the playground of the school but no one notices.” — I think its pretty clear that, in both instances, this character is only visible to Charlie and Ben, respectively.

      “One character commits negligent homicide but is never even questioned.” — The film skips ahead from the incident, and discovery, to several months in the future. Again, police questioning isn’t particularly important to this story. The question of “blame” within the family, which is important, is addressed.

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