On Friday, fright devotees flocked to theaters to revel in and be tortured by A24’s new supernatural horror flick, Hereditary.
By Sunday, the rising fright fest had been rocked by a D+ CinemaScore– though it held onto a 93% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and cashed in its opening weekend box office at $13 million.
So, what got the audience members polled by CinemaScore so miffed? I checked out the alleged “scariest horror film ever constructed” late last nighttime and am pretty sure I know who is to blame for disappointed audience members.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved this movie. It was devastating, revolting, and unsettling, and it entirely “ve ruined my” weekend. It’s basically a dreaming for a glutton for penalty.
No amount of anticipation the next frame can protect you from Hereditary ‘s scares.
That being said, I get why some viewers left the film impression like they’d been tricked by A24’s marketing. Depending on how this movie was presented to you before your demonstration, you likely left the theater either under- or overwhelmed.
Claims that Hereditary em> was scarier than The Exorcist em> or better than Rosemary’s Baby set impossible standards for the indie film — and primed enthusiastic moviegoers for letdown.
More importantly, it also define expectations that the movie would present itself as an instant classic of the genre. However, most “classic” movies earn their place in the pop culture pantheon over years of popular consideration and critical analysis. Hereditary is simply too new to draw that off.
Meanwhile, audiences chasing after the pleasant adrenaline rushing associated with quick forgettable frightens may have been taken aback by the deeply emotional storytelling and next-level perturbing imagery. Hereditary em> doesn’t build its legacy on leap intimidates and inexpensive gore. It goes all in on psychological fear, and no quantity of anticipating the next frame can protect you from its effects.
In anticipation of a classic possessed-girl narrative, I watched the trailers and gazed at the promotional posters featuring Charlie, played by young actress Milly Shapiro, in dread. But in a shocking spin, Charlie is decapitated in the film’s first half, Hereditary ‘s cast abruptly loses its guessed masthead–if you’ll pardon the expression.
Even experts at covering their eyes at the last second can’t avoid the trauma of this particular scene. To add insult to injury, shortly after the graphic beheading, you get a surprise snap cut to a close up of Charlie’s rotting psyche being eaten by ants. Again, eye embrace is completely impossible. That image is utterly getting in your brain if you see this movie.
So if you are more a fan of flicks like Happy Death Day and Truth or Dare em >— where being traumatized is entirely optional, given the clear visual and auditory cues alerting you to impending fate — you may find yourself leaving theaters resentful.
Aster admitted to this marketing betrayal in a recent interview with Vulture. He explained that for most genre devotees, a genre cinema is like “comfort food.” He continued, “There is a certain complacency that comes with watching a genre cinema, and if you want to transgress something, that’s various kinds of perfect that you have people dropping in. That complacency is good, because then if you are going to turn things on them, it’s a shock.”
Aster surely achieved his goal of shocking audiences with Hereditary ‘s marketing to screen switcheroo. Nonetheless, the issues to remains: Will Aster’s commitment to audience torture help or hurt his film’s long term success?
Because, as it currently stands, the only fiscal certainty resulting from Hereditary em> is a massive uptick in my electric bill.
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