What is the difference-maker between a forgettable film and a film that is rewatchable, recommendable and beloved forever by most people?
The answer is, the same three features that make pro wrestling ultrapopular and megaprofitable. Yes, really! I call them the 3 Count!
Using pro wrestling terminology, I’ll review “Hereditary” for its 3 Count, and other pro wrestling concepts, to explain why this financially successful and critically-acclaimed movie is an overhyped Jabroni and will be forgotten by most of the public within a few years.
Is Being a Jabroni “Hereditary”?
The response to “Hereditary” is mixed. Critics pop for it (especially Toni Collette’s performance and the technical filmmaking), while audiences give it mild applause.
Either way, you can’t no-sell the telephone-pole-to-the-face-like impact this small film had at the box office, drawing nearly 8x its $10 million budget.
Like I said above, “Hereditary” is a Jabroni. In this review, I’m going to rip its head off with a Clothesline from Hell. But first, I want to explore its marketing.
Let’s look at the trailer’s Butts in Seats Gimmick, the marketing hook that’s supposed to make people say, “I’ve got to see that!”
The Butts in Seats Gimmick
Critics are marking out for a weird-looking, R-rated horror movie?! When does that ever happen? As far as the plot, it looks like an entire family is either possessed by demons or just goes totally walnuts after grandma dies. But DID YOU SEE THAT KID LOP THE HEAD OFF THAT DEAD BIRD?!
So, the Butts in Seats gimmick promises a movie that is “this generation’s ‘The Exorcist,’” one of the most over horror movies of all time. Everyone should want to see that!
Now, let’s look at the movie’s 3 Count.
The 3 Count
1. Babyface vs Heel
Babyfaces vs heels (or good guys vs bad guys) is one of the most basic ingredients for emotional investment in any story. Does “Hereditary” have babyfaces vs heels?
Right away, here is where problems begin. “Hereditary” doesn’t have babyfaces vs heels. Without babyfaces to root for, the protagonists are expendable jobbers like the camp counselors at Crystal Lake. What “Hereditary” has instead is a family of jobbers vs demon-king-worshipping heels.
The Graham family is not a faction of babyfaces.
Babyfaces are likable, but the Grahams are not. Hell, they don’t even like each other! They’re constantly arguing, yelling and cutting promos on each other throughout the whole movie. No likability from them means no sympathy from us.
Babyfaces fight adversity, but the Grahams don’t. A huge flaw in this movie is the Grahams don’t have any confrontations with the evil cult working against them. Without a fight, you’ve got a movie that is very, very…
Babyfaces sell during their struggle, and the Grahams absolutely do that. It’s a requirement of horror movies, so at least they get that right.
Unfortunately, their selling isn’t connected to the source of their pain since the filmmakers decided to hide all the evil stuff the cult does from the Grahams AND from the viewer! Imagine watching a squash match on TV that only shows the jobber getting his ass kicked but not the superstar kicking his ass! If only the Grahams’ selling was connected to the dastardly actions from the heels! The Grahams end up blaming each other for their pain, which leads to more in-fighting.
Here is a quick rundown of the Grahams and their gimmicks.
- Annie: She resents the way her dead mom treated her, yet Annie treats her family the same way. It’s common for wrestlers’ kids to get into the business like their parents did. But second-generation wrestlers don’t always use their parent’s gimmicks, because it can be a turn-off to fans. And, just like her mom, Annie is unlikable. It’s a turnoff!
- Steve: A nice guy who does nothing and dies.
- Peter: He’s a selfish, argumentative, wellness-policy violating, teenage crybaby with no personality. He’s responsible for the big death spot in the movie, but even that was an accident! I’d be embarrassed to be repackaged into Peter’s body if I was King Paimon. (More about that later.)
- Charlie: She is socially awkward and allergic to nuts. She mostly spends time lopping the heads off dead animals, arranging them into poses, making a clicking sound with her tongue, and staring into space, like Festus.
Hmm. I’ve mentioned lopping off heads a few times already. I’m going to name that move. I’ll figure something out. Look for that later in this review. We’ll see what I come up with. Anyway, let’s take a look at the heels.
Joan and the Paimon worshippers.
Joan seems like a sweet, empathetic lady. She emotionally supports Annie through their shared experience of having recently lost loved ones. In fact, she’s actually the leader of a ministry of darkness that Grandma Graham belonged to.
Joan is a practitioner of kayfabe. She works Annie to get her to unknowingly do the cult’s bidding. For example, when Joan shows Annie how to perform a séance and talk to her departed family, Joan is scheming to get Annie to jumpstart all the demon-possessions, spontaneous combustions, and self-beheadings that follow.
All of this effort means the heels are a lot like pro wrestlers for a few reasons.
- They want to reach a goal as clear as winning a match: conjure King Paimon into the body of Peter Graham.
- They want to have control over other people, the very thing wrestlers need in order to win a match.
- The heels have their leader kayfabe as a babyface to get close to their enemy in order to manipulate her into a submissive state. Okay, that sentence is so pro wrestling, I don’t even have to interpret it.
Here’s what sucks about the heels; we don’t see any of the things they do to reach their goal. That’s lame! I want to know how they got smartened up about how to conjure Paimon! Anyway, they are liars, they are greedy, they are merciless, they are old, and they are naked. I mean, they’re more naked than Naked Mideon. At least he wore a fanny pack.
So far, “Hereditary” is 0 for 3 with the 3 Count.
Now, let’s look for Top Talent in “Hereditary.” Top Talent wrestlers (and movie characters) stand out from everyone else for their charisma, quotability, distinctive appearance, fun-to-imitate qualities, and huge drawing power at the box office. So, does “Hereditary” have any Top Talent?
2. Top Talent
Although Charlie has her signature tongue click and orange hoodie, and Peter has his unique-looking crown and busted nose from the last scene in the movie, no, there are no Top Talent.
Since the comparison was made in the marketing, think of demon-possessed Reagan from “The Exorcist.” She has all the qualities for Top Talent listed above. Plus, she has multiple memorable scenes. Personally, I can only remember two of Charlie’s OFF the top of my HEAD!
So far, we’re at a weak 0-for-2 with the 3 Count. Man, this movie sucks!
Now, let’s look at how well the storytelling technique of pro wrestling, called Ring Psychology, can be applied to “Hereditary.”
3. Ring Psychology
Ring Psychology is the form of storytelling wrestlers use to create the emotional peaks and valleys in their matches while they fight for the story’s momentum. Let’s look at the Ring Psychology for “Hereditary.”
Act 1: Entrances
The ring: The setting isn’t mentioned, and, honestly…
Jobbers’ entrances: Peter, Steve, Annie, and Charlie.
There doesn’t appear to be anything special about the first three, but Charlie gives the Lopper to a dead bird, which is an attention-getter. (Yeah. That’s right. The Lopper. Boom.)
Annie makes Peter take Charlie to a high-school party. As Peter drives to the party with Charlie, and as we head toward Act 2, it’s obvious there is no plot. Nobody wants anything, this movie is just a series of events, and there is no story.
Heels’ entrances: oh, wait, they don’t enter. But they’re kind of around. Yeesh.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THIS IS AN ANYTHING GOES MATCH BECAUSE THERE DON’T SEEM TO BE ANY RULES! THE MATCH ENDS ONCE EVENTS NO LONGER CONTINUE TO HAPPEN. THIS MATCH IS FOR… UH… WELL, WE’LL FIND OUT!
Act 2: Ring the Bell!
Peter uses his weed to get over with some kids at the high school party, including the girl he’s crushing on.
Cutoff and Get Heat
Oh, no! Charlie eats cake with walnuts and has an allergic reaction! Peter races her down the road in the car toward the hospital! (Someone’s doing something in the movie!) She sticks her head out the window to get more air. Suddenly, Peter swerves to avoid hitting a dead deer, and Charlie takes a bump: a headbutt to a telephone pole that lops her head off! Charlie took… the Lopper!
Charlie’s death is the Most Over gimmick from “Hereditary.” It was such a violent, unexpected, absurd swerve that it has to be what this movie will be remembered for.
Peter goes into shock, powders, and drives straight home. Annie gets smartened up about Peter’s wild night when she finds Charlie’s body in the car the next day. She loses it and sells big-time. They have Charlie’s funeral, then some boring stuff happens. Skipping ahead.
A lady named Joan enters and introduces herself to Annie. Joan also lost loved ones recently and understands what Annie is going through. Joan gives her number to Annie. Annie has a new friend. Good for Annie.
And then the Grahams argue, and nothing happens that develops the story. I’m skipping ahead to Joan’s next scene. She’s the only thing that hints at a story. This movie is boring!
Annie sees Joan in a parking lot and goes to her. Joan is super happy because she talked to her dead grandson at a séance. She wants Annie to come to her place and do one right now. Annie looks uncomfortable, so she’s not going to go, right?
Wait! I need to stop for a second. Let me cut a promo here! This passive character crap is killing me! Annie just coincidentally runs into Joan somewhere? What the hell kind of story progress is that? You can assume Joan planted herself in the parking lot to push the séance on Annie, but Annie called out to Joan first! What if Annie didn’t see Joan or tried to avoid her? If Joan had enthusiastically approached Annie and pushed the séance, Joan would be more of an evil heel. This movie is a Jabroni because of so many Storytelling 101 botches like this!
Cutoff and Get Heat
Again, Annie is uncomfortable with the séance so she… totally goes with Joan to do it! (sigh) It’s typical movie séance stuff. Annie freaks out and powders. Good, Annie! Get out of there! But, before she goes, she takes some information Joan gives her about performing a séance!
Skipping ahead, Annie looks through Grandma’s books and finds instructions for conjuring King Paimon into a human host, and we finally get a stipulation for victory in this movie. The host needs to be “vulnerable” before the conjuring will work. Well! That explains why writer/director Ari Aster never has the Grahams fire-up and why they’re all pathetic characters! He wanted to payoff this stupid stip he created!
Let’s skip ahead to the Go-Home, the closing section, of the movie.
Act 3: The Go-Home
Cutoff and Get Heat
After Annie has discovered her mother’s dead, decapitated body in the attic and showed it to Steve, she decides they need to burn Charlie’s sketchbook in their fireplace to get rid of the ghosts haunting them. YOU WANT TO BURN A SKETCHBOOK BEFORE YOU CALL THE COPS TO REPORT THE DEAD BODY OF YOUR MOTHER IN THE ATTIC!? Anyway, she tells Steve to toss it into the fire. He won’t, so she does, and, for some reason…
Steve goes up in a blaze of flames like he owed Kane money!
Annie stares at him and goes catatonic. Full-on Festus. She’s been possessed by something. Probably Paimon. I don’t know. Cut to:
Cutoff and Get Heat
Peter, the last living and not-possessed member of his family, wakes up in his bed later that night. Although it’s difficult to know what the hell is happening in most of this movie, you know Peter is screwed now. In short, he walks around the dark house, finds his dead dad, sees a naked Paimon worshipper, powders from his possessed mom and crawls into the attic. But he looks up and sees Annie floating in the air and using a wire to give herself the Lopper!
Peter stares in disbelief at the spectacle of Annie’s gravity-defying self-finisher. Then, he notices some near-by old, naked Paimon worshippers, so he does a full-on Suicide Dive out the attic window!
Peter stands up and clicks his tongue like Charlie. Hey, that’s gimmick infringement! Annie’s headless body floats into the treehouse, and he follows it in. Joan and the Paimon worshippers are there. Joan puts a crown on Peter’s head and begins to smarten him up.
She says Peter is Charlie, but Charlie is actually Paimon, the 8th King of the Ring of Hell. Paimon used to be in Charlie’s body but they repackaged him into Peter. The worshippers brought Paimon into the territory to gain his knowledge and have McMahon-levels of control over men. That’s what this has all been about. (I’d call this a swerve except we weren’t misdirected about what was happening. This is just the answer to the question, “What the **** is going on?”) The cult hail him like he’s King Booker.
The heels win.
Honestly, (and if you’ve seen the movie, you know shooting here), the final shot in this movie is the naked Paimon worshippers bowing to Peter, which means there’s a couple of bare butts pointing at us, the audience. If you believe in symbols and signs, then take the moonings at the end of this movie as a sign that you’ve reached the punchline at the end of this 2 hour rib.
We’ve reached bottom. The End.
Like a wrestling match, this movie has a conflict between two sides and something important on the line. But we don’t know what is on the line, and this whole thing is a 2 hour, squash match where you don’t see the heels get their heat! Without that, there is no momentum to gain or lose. Without that, there isn’t a STORY! I feel so… so… frustrated! How do you feel Bret?
“This generation’s ‘The Exorcist’” is 0 for 3 with the 3 Count.
The Blow Off
The lesson here is that even Jabronies can draw at the box office with the right trailer to promote a good “Butts In Seats” Gimmick. But once the movie ends, the final product needs to live up to the hype.
“Hereditary” is an overhyped Jabroni that gets over with critics for its acting, tone and technical filmmaking instead of empathetic protagonists (babyfaces), dastardly villains (heels), standout characters (Top Talent), or effective, narrative technique (Ring Psychology). It’s possible to have all of that in a horror movie. One that comes to mind, and that still has huge mass appeal after decades, is “The Exorcist”!
There’s a fanbase for every movie, so “Hereditary” will have one that consists of hardcore marks for spooks and scares and those who love to examine movies with a magnifying glass to make sure they noticed every clue in the movie. But I say to HELL with that! “Hereditary” is a Jabroni.