My first exposure to this movie was just a couple weeks ago when I actually stumbled on a clip from this movie that turned out to be a bit of a spoiler. Over the years I’ve really kind of redefined whether or not spoilers completely take me out of a movie or not. This is one experience where I can categorically say that this did not hinder me one iota from thoroughly enjoying pretty much every single part of this movie. If that’s not enough warning for you, there’s a good chance I’m going to gush as I write this. I know one of the things that drives a lot of people nuts about the movie “Hereditary” (ESPECIALLY in the horror community) is that everybody gushed over that movie when it came out and I think that soured a lot of people. I still love Hereditary. Many people I think have unfortunately moved that film into the overrated category which I think is too bad. I know there are missteps with the film in the third act. But I also feel like a lot of people got turned off to the film simply because so many people seemed to love it but in a way that they didn’t really quantify well, at least in my estimation. I think some people wanted to know why it was so highly regarded by so many people and when there didn’t seem to be a compelling reason, they just labelled it overhyped and moved on. I’ve fallen victim to similar thinking many times in my life. I’ve put off checking out movies and tv shows because I didn’t love the masses obsessing over something. I’m not somebody who has to go against the flow just because. But there are times when I do have a hard time watching something based solely on the notation that everybody else is doing it. Maybe that’s the price I pay for having grown up in that generation where our parents constantly asked us if Billy jumped off a cliff would we do that too? Why all these children in the 80’s and 90’s were so fond of jumping off cliffs I’ll never know. But it pushed me to not follow the crowd sometimes. But this movie deserves all the following it can get in my opinion. So if you’re keen to allow me to gush then I think you’ll find yourself wanting to watch this movie as well.
Just because spoilers don’t ruin a movie for me doesn’t mean that’s also a norm. So I’m going to try REALLY hard to talk more about the movie as a whole than go through the story of the movie. I know by talking about any part of it I run the risk of influencing someone else’s perception of the movie but that’s a risk both you and I have to take at this juncture. Frankly, if you’re still here at this point I think perhaps we’ve both thrown caution to the wind in the most fantastic sense and I’m all for it. But that notation aside, I will still try my best not to give away plot points in the story and focus more on the peripheral elements of the movie that enhanced the total experience for me. What my hope is that by having watched this movie myself with an eye for these things it might bring more life to these secondary elements of the film making process that do add more depth to the overall immersion into the film for you.
The first thing I want to do is highlight the primary cast. Lizzy Caplan, Antony Starr and Woody Norman are Carol, Mark and Peter. Mother, father and son. They present outwardly as a mostly normalish sort of family. There’s a slightly unconventional way about them from the outside facing in that makes them unique, of sorts. It’s not overt. It’s just one of those things that if you lived on the same street as them you’d wave and smile but something would make you think something, somewhere with that family is just a little off. Not so much that you’d pay extra attention to it. You’d think about it when you observed them naturally but it wouldn’t linger. I have to say that Caplan and Starr balance their character’s impeccably. There’s several sides to both of them and the come out in tremendous fashion at various points in the film. There’s real vulnerability and a genuineness to them at times but then they are equally capable of being terrifically cold and empty. And tucked in between the different aspects of their personalities are varying degrees of mania that ebb and flow through their portrayals as Peter’s parents throughout the film. It keeps you on edge because even as an audience member who identifies and stays present in the film primarily through the lens of Peter, that relationship he has with his parents finds its way of creeping into how you interact with them as well. This creates some MASSIVE tension at times as the actors on screen seem able to even emotionally manipulate the viewer as a part of the whole experiment here. Peter is most accessible to the audience. We are brought into this world through his perception and live attached to him in the duration of the film. His fear is palpable to us. I like the way it seems as though we are initially meant to feel for him in a sympathetic manner which I think would keep us outside of the film but as it progresses that sympathy morphs closer into an empathy which draws us into the film. Peter becomes our conduit for fear and he has plenty of elements in his life that bring him varying degrees and types of uneasiness.
Visually I loved how this movie is presented. There are many ways that we continue on the emotional adventure through the film but in a visual capacity. The use of light and dark as it relates to the emotional instability feels extraordinarily deliberate. I love how shadows are employed at times as well as a couple of scenes marked by silhouettes and other interesting lighting techniques. The color palate also enhances what is being taken in in almost every scene. At times there is a muted color scheme as things feel as though they are draped over this world we are living in but then bursts of color at times break up that monotony to create a variation in how we come and go in the environment. Personally I found myself really enjoying the watching part of it. I know that sounds silly but I think a lot of the times we take the senses out of the experience because they all get mashed together. By separating them out and appreciating them in different fashions than perhaps we typically do, I think there’s ways to find additional pieces to the film. If I turned off the sound and cut out the scenes where I was being deliberately shown actors on a a screen reciting dialogue and got all the moments in between, I believe I’d still be able to feel my way through this movie in a similar means by which I did wholly at the end. By taking these pieces and adding them in on top of the skeleton of the movie, there’s so much more to work with as it all comes together.
You could do something similar with the sound in the film. If you closed your eyes and could only take this movie in through the sense of hearing, clearly you’d hear the dialogue and know what’s going on but there’s so much more when if we hyper focus our ears to what else is going on in the movie. There was at least one point in the film where the hysteria of the score was driving the scene and it all of a sudden completely drops out and that starkness of contrast made me double take. I was initially tempted to be upset because the music was creating such a tension that I didn’t want it to stop. But by dropping out all together it pivoted in almost a violent way and caused me to crash into the lack of music. The fact that the momentum of the rest of the movie continued actually made me reevaluate how I was participating in that part of the film and ultimately I enjoyed it that much more. There are a number of other examples that pertain to the tonal shifts in character voices and the uses of loud, big sounds and the epic nature of the whisper and it’s ability to considerably enhance a scene. I won’t get so wrapped up in those because a lot of that dialogue and inflection has to deal with different heightened emotional states in the film and if I’m going to stay spoiler free then I’ll just have to encourage you to allow yourself to sort of wade into the center of this movie with all of your senses firing as freely as you can. Pay attention to how characters use their deliberate changes in delivery to weave themselves emotionally in and out of scenes. Allow yourself to really notice the visuals and explore all of the screen. Go to the corners and challenge where they want you to look. Observe how the camera moves and adjusts. What is it showing you? What is it leaving out? Is it hiding anything? I’m already looking forward to subsequent viewings of this film just so I can explore more of it in these different ways. Once I know the story and can rely on that to pass as expected, I can roam a bit more in each moment and take in different parts of the settings of the film. Look at the sets. Be in the room you’re looking at and try and take it in fully. It’s a really great way to find yourself not just watching a movie but being fully enveloped by it.
I feel like this would be the part where I’d say something pithy about how it’s not a perfect film and lay out the elements I didn’t like. it’s true. This isn’t a 10 our of 10. I’m presently wrestling between a 7.5 and an 8. For some reason I can’t bring myself to split the difference on a 7.75. Not sure why. I think if I can do that I should go ahead and round up to an 8. So lets do that. I think having seen 23 horror movies thus far this month that this is the best one I’ve seen so far. I did an obligatory look back at everything I’ve watched and I can confirm that this is my favorite thus far. I don’t anticipate anything beating it either. I know at the end of this week I’m planning on checking out the new Five Nights at Freddy’s which has a lot of hype. But I don’t really have any inkling that it will hold a candle to this film. Honestly this might be the best PG-13 horror movie I’ve ever seen. I don’t mean to put it on an undeserving pedestal. It isn’t the greatest movie I’ve ever seen but honestly it was impressive. If I had to pick at it, the story isn’t new. I don’t totally know how you’d do something completely new at this point anyways. But even taking that possibility out of the mix, the story being told here is, at the very least, an amalgamation of a few somewhat standard horror plot lines. I think the reality is they just did them so well here that it doesn’t really matter to me. Cleopatra Coleman, who plays Peter’s teacher, Miss Devine, is a weak link for sure. In the wake of the talent of Lizzy Caplan and Antony Starr, her performance is definitely lacking. But still, I have to note that it’s a relatively small part and it’s still capably handled. It’s not done outstandingly well but it really is incredibly hard to out do the performances of Peter’s parents. I know there will be people out there that watch this movie that think I’ve drank just a little too much of the Cobweb Kool Aid. And that’s fine. As I said in my last review, I’m sure there’s a following for Hatchet of people who genuinely, not ironically, enjoyed that movie. There has to be a portion of the audience that will see this movie and enjoy it fine but not love it like I have. That’s the wonderful thing about movies. Just because I’ve sat here and comprised my thoughts and pushed them out to the internet does it mean anything. This is mostly an endeavor for me to enjoy and if it assists anyone in further enjoying a movie then I’m happy. I’m just a guy going through October watching movies. I do sincerely HOPE that if you happen to watch this movie that you have as good of a time as I did. Because by the time this movie was over I was bummed because it was SO good. You don’t come across that every day and that kind of experience is my favorite when it comes to movies. I don’t care if I’m watching something like this for the first time or putting on Home Alone for the ten millionth time, I want to enjoy that process to some degree every time. So here’s to hoping that if you tune in for Cobweb that you have equally as good of a time as I did because I have to imagine that it will only make your spooky season that much better. That’s it for me on this one. I’m sure I could keep going on but looking at the clock it’s well past my bedtime and lets face it, I’ve said my piece on this flick. Until next time kids, I’ll catch you on the flip side.