In mid-2018, A24 and Ari Aster released one of the most terrifying films of all time: Hereditary. It stars Toni Collete and Gabriel Byrne and follows a family haunted after the death of their secretive grandmother. The film was acclaimed by critics, who called it “truly, upsettingly powerful on an emotional level.” The film quickly became A24’s highest-grossing film worldwide, and it has received several impressive awards nomination. Plus, Toni Collete delivers the performance of her career.
So, here’s what happens. Annie Graham lives with her husband, Steve, their 16-year-old son, Peter, and their 13-year-old daughter, Charlie. When the matriarch of her family passes away, the Annie and her children begin to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. I won’t spoil it too much, but the thrust of the plot is provided by Annie, Peter, and Charlie’s inability to outrun the sinister fates they have inherited through their mother’s bloodline.
So, what makes this film so scary? A lot of things, but primarily: it combines both childhood and adult fears. It makes the viewer terrified of what’s behind the curtain, but it also deals with the trauma of inheriting and living with a mental illness. It depicts a horrifying cult, but is also makes the viewer fearful of strangers. Hereditary artfully combines some of the most basic and complex fears we have as humans and throws them back in our faces. It’s truly exhilarating.
Here’s another fun piece of movie trivia. Apparently, the film has been “scientifically proven” to be the scariest film of 2018. A24 gave a randomly selected audience Apple Watches, which monitored their vitals. During the film, their heart rates raised to an alarming 164 bpm. A healthy resting heart rate is generally between 60 and 80 beats per minute. If that’s not enough to make you want to go out and see this movie, I don’t know what is.