How scary, really, is the 2018 movie Hereditary?

I’m only here today to answer two questions about the film Hereditary (2018).

They are:
1) How scary is it?
2) Is it any good?

I’ll be back on Wednesday with a full review of Hereditary which will include spoilers, but for now, you can safely read on.


Hereditary is being billed as a game-changer movie, (one that is “pants-wettingly scary,” according to Tasha Robinson, over at The Verge.) Here’s a selection of phrases critics are using:

[A] terrifying thriller that pins you to the back of your chair and leaves you paralyzed in fear.
(Detroit News, Andrew Graham)

Are you ready for the year’s scariest movie? I don’t think you are, not at all.
(Mpls. Star Tribune, Colin Covert)

Creepy beyond belief.
(, Matt Zoller Seitz)

So terrifying that I wanted to hide under a blankie during the screening.
(Us Weekly, Mara Reinstein)

And this:
It’s pure emotional terrorism, gripping you with real horror, the unspeakable kind, and then imbuing the supernatural stuff with those feelings. It didn’t play me like a fiddle. It slammed on my insides like a grand piano.
(AV Club, A.A. Dowd)

(These review snippets were mostly gathered at Rotten Tomatoes.)

The buzz about Hereditary was so loud and insistent that I considered waiting until it came out on DVD to watch it. (In a theater, I can’t pause a machine while I get my nerves under control. Also, I’m more likely to view the high tension scenes through a screen of my own fingers, which means I can miss a lot.) My Ogre, however, surprised me with pre-purchased tickets, so, on Saturday afternoon, we went to the theater.

Our front-row seats boded a particularly intense experience, and I was prepared for the worst.

I’m here to tell you, It wasn’t that bad.

Now, maybe that’s a consequence of me being me. I have seen a lot of  deeply unsettling and frightening movies. Even so, I’m pretty sure that a more casual thriller or horror fan will be fine. The requisite bloody scenes (because this is horror after all) are few and manageable. The jump scares are better than most, and there aren’t too many. The tension and dread, however, do begin early and continue throughout the film.

(In my opinion, that gives way to a sense of confusion about the plot in the last third or so of the movie, but I’ll write more about that on the 13th.)

When it comes to pure “scariness” I’d say that Hereditary is easier to watch than The Conjuring.


… and well worth seeing on the big screen.

Hereditary will be going onto one of my best horror movies lists, though I’m not yet sure which one(s).

It could fit on:

13 unsettling movies – for psychological horror fans
the 13+ most haunting films, for ghost story lovers

but it really probably belongs on an entirely new list.

Hereditary may actually inspire me to get off my butt and finally write up that demonic / possession collection I’ve been threatening to do for years.

Overall Hereditary has some problems, but it also has some genuinely amazing moments. The look and feel of the environment, and the camera work used to highlight it, is top notch. The acting is superb. And, when it comes to the motivations and the reactions of the characters, this film breaks new ground.

My final thought (for now)? Don’t be scared to go see it.