Daniel Cruse’s review published on Letterboxd:
Revisiting this after Hereditary was worthwhile but also revealed some shortcomings with Aster’s vision here. To clarify before I go a little hard on the movie, I truly think it’s a great film but one with some flaws that are hard to overlook. It’s a beautifully realized movie with regards to the performances and the cinematography. The music is also incredibly haunting and it’s a great score to accompany the film. I really love the story too but the main issue that keeps me from putting this movie in the conversation for an all time personal favorite or a rewatchable film is the pacing.
The movie does not need to be as long as it is. I think there’s a lot of great material here but it could’ve been under two hours, definitely under two and a half. There’s so much time devoted to Dani essentially wondering aimlessly in fields, the dinner scenes are consistently 3-5 minutes longer than necessary, and for people who view this film through the lens of it being a horror movie it takes way too long to reach those points. I understand the time in between builds up suspense but I personally don’t find the cult that creepy until the final stretch of the movie where things really start hitting the fan. Once you’ve seen the film already, rewatching it just leaves me waiting for those standout scenes and occasionally slogging through some stuff that should’ve been cut out.
I believe the missteps here are more or less a learning curve for Aster who likely received an entirely blank check to do literally whatever he wanted with this film after Hereditary, and I hope that going forward his features can be a little more streamlined and focused. That being said, the presentation here is so beautiful and the movie does have some deeply unnerving and disturbing moments.
Florence Pugh gives a knockout performance, and the rest of the cast ranges from decent to great but the other standout for me is William Jackson Harper. I especially love the scene where he stands up to Christian when they’re talking about the thesis.
The strengths of this film rest primarily on the cast and the camerawork but don’t misinterpret my criticisms to mean that I think it’s a bad movie because I love many components of it and also I love that Ari Aster got to fulfill this creative vision entirely even if I don’t agree with all of his decisions. He’s a powerful player in this new wave of horror cinema and I’m excited to see what he does next.