It’s not uncommon for movies to be well reviewed by critics but not exactly well received by general audiences, and A24’s Ari Aster-directed Hereditary, released into theaters last week, is a perfect example of that division. Critically speaking, Hereditary sits tall on Rotten Tomatoes with a 92% fresh, but the audience-polled CinemaScore is a dismal D+.
So what’s the story there? Why did Hereditary receive such a low audience rating when *most* critics absolutely loved it? Much of that is likely due to expectation, as star Milly “Charlie” Shapiro pitch perfectly explained in a chat with Uproxx this week.
“I think a lot of people don’t get it the first time, and they’re probably going in expecting the typical horror movie and they’re not really open to a new style,” Shapiro told the site. “It is very similar to The Exorcist and The Shining in that there is a lot of development and it’s not about jump scares. It’s about psychological scares, and I think a lot of people weren’t really sure what to expect when they went in. They just expected the typical modern horror movie, which is a bunch of jump scares, and you’re not really supposed to think about it, everything is handed to you.”
The 15 year old actress, a Tony winner and Grammy nominee who made her feature debut in Hereditary, continued, “But Hereditary isn’t really like that, and I think all the reviewers were going in with an open mind. I think a lot of the people going in to see the film that didn’t like it weren’t really open to the new ideas of it.”
For many audiences, Hereditary being billed as “one of the scariest movies ever made!!” was likely more of a detriment to their enjoyment than anything else, as it’s “scary” in a different way than we’re really used to horror movies being. In fact, it’s more deeply, profoundly unsettling than it is jump-in-your-seat scary, so I think Shapiro is spot on in suggesting that many were perhaps expecting the wrong thing from the film.
Mind you, that’s not to say anyone is wrong for not liking Hereditary (or any critically acclaimed film), as a personal opinion can never be wrong, but it’s certainly been interesting to see how audiences are reacting to the film versus how critics have been.
If I was a betting man, I’d bet that Hereditary is going to be one of those films that’s more appreciated by many on a second watch, when expectations are in the right place.
After all, that’s kinda the A24 way.