'Hereditary' Finds Horror in Family Drama

'Hereditary' Finds Horror in Family Drama
Hereditary made a big splash at Sundance earlier this year, and it's being touted as the scariest movie in years. But while its tale of familial evil is undoubtedly horrifying, writer-director Ari Aster didn't actually conceive of it as a horror flick in the traditional sense.

"Even when we were pitching the film, before we had found financing, I was describing it as a family tragedy that curdles into a nightmare," Aster says. "I was careful to not even call it a horror movie. I knew that it was very important for me to make sure that the film functioned as a vivid family drama before I even thought about the horror elements."

With a runtime of a little over two hours, Hereditary is a slow burn that becomes increasingly chilling as it builds towards a blood-curdling climax. Toni Collette plays Annie Graham, a wife and mother of two who copes with conflicted feelings of grief following the death of her estranged mother. As the story progresses, the tragedies mount and we learn more about the sinister secrets lurking in the family bloodline.
 
"I wanted the horror elements to grow out of the characters, their dynamic, their situation, and ultimately their suffering — because that's what the film's about," Aster explains. "The film is about grief and trauma. I wanted to make a film that collapsed under the weight of what these people are going through."
 
It's likely that Aster's next film won't be horror. He explains that he's been writing a sci-fi feature, and his other completed scripts include a "slapstick dark comedy" and a "Western-noir hybrid." For now, however, Aster is clearly pleased that audiences find Hereditary so frightening. When I tell him how deeply scary the film is, he gives a satisfied chuckle and says, simply, "Good."