Let’s talk about Hereditary.

Actually, let’s take a second before talking and Hereditary and instead talk about the difference between the critics and punters. In a perfect world, film critics go out, watch a movie and tell us how good it is. And they do. But because film criticism became such a key thing to newspapers, papers demanded that reviews be a bit more than just “Yeah it was alright, check it out on matinee if you can.” So critics were packed off to film school, learned theory and came back to give you really interesting articles evaluating a movie’s merits.

However, this created a disconnect between critics and audiences. Many critics would criticise popular blockbusters which audiences enjoyed while praising arthouse films which left general audiences cold. It created a distrust by the audience because they thought critics as toffs who dismissed anything with explosions and instead hailed the latest Portuguese romance flick. Audiences instead decided to listen to each other with social media aiding this.

So why am I talking about this? Well, Hereditary has been caught in the middle of this divide. This movie is beloved by critics. It sits at a very healthy 89% and many have called it a new horror classic, with some daring to say it is just as good, scary and shocking as The Exorcist is. That’s a hell of a claim to make. But the audience rejected it. While it made plenty of money, people came out and were not happy. It had a D+ CinemaScore, a rating based on what people think coming out of the screenings, and most of the anecdotal stuff I heard from friends who saw this was negative. The divide was not helped when most of the critic reaction pieces to the hatred of Hereditary were basically “You just don’t get it and want The Conjuring 6: Conjure Back.” Now I am a critic, well unpaid but most of us are these days but I like to pretend that I’m not out of touch and know what general audiences want.

And I agree with the general audience here that this is not what I want. For the most part Hereditary lurches from idea to idea without many links until a frankly laughable last thirty minutes of the movie. For the first third, the film doesn’t seem sure of what kind of horror movie it’s going to be. It seems like they are going to do the creepy kid thing, especially when Charlie decides to decapitate a pigeon for some reason. Yes this does have a reason but you don’t find out for ages and at the time it definitely feels like shock for shock’s sake. Then she gets decapitated by sticking her head out of the car window and the camera decides to spend an entire minute focusing on ants eating her head. That shot is creepy, but it’s there for shock value because it adds very little to the movie. It’s the same as a pointless spurt of blood or a jump scare, not there to enhance the story but to get a cheap reaction from the audience.

However there is at least something creepy in the first half of the movie. Something that’s building, something that feels off but in the right way. Yes the movie is still rather rubbish in the first half, it knows it wants to do something with the idea of grief but it lurches around for a while working out what exactly what to do with it. Then a seance happens. This movie has creepy things happen but before the seance happens, it is gritty and realistic. It feels like it could happen in our world. Then over an hour in the movie tells you without any hint of it being a possibility before that that ghosts are real and they are not happy things. The movie is hoping that it has won you over enough with the established atmosphere to go along with this big leap and if you don’t, boy are you in for a treat.

The movie just goes insane for the final third. A man chucks a book into a fire and spontaneously combusts. A woman floats into a treehouse. If you have bought into the mvoie and it had won you over with the first two thirds, I’m sure this is terrifying. If you have not, well, I hope you enjoy 2018’s greatest comedy because it is hilarious. It’s just so random, bringing in so many different elements in an attempt to scare you. Cults even become a big thing after never being mentioned for over an hour. And as I’ve said, if you are into the movie, this will probably make you cower if your seat. If you are not, it will be hilarious as it feels like the movie is pulling horror tropes out of a hat. And funny is not scary, especially in a movie as serious as this.

I can only rate the movie on how I feel. I can assume what other might people might think but if you assume you make ass… well you get it. And I thought Hereditary was terrible. It’s main aim to is to scare you and when it doesn’t have any idea what to do with itself it becomes the greatest comedy of the year. And as funny as it is, this movie is a horror movie and that’s how I have to rate it. So yeah unless you fancy a laugh, avoid it. Unless you have the mind of a critic, then you’ll probably love it.

Former Head of Movies for Screen Critics. Film Reviews now hosted on Medium.