Movie Review

Horror 'Hereditary' doesn't rely on cheap jump-scare tactics to terrify

Director Ari Aster calls his debut movie 'a family drama that curdles into a nightmare'

17 June 2018 - 00:01 By Andrea Nagel

There are gremlins and poltergeists, psychopaths, ghosts, aliens, witches, cannibals, zombies, clowns, devils, werewolves, vampires, sharks and serial killers. But nothing is as scary in a horror film as domestic disruption. It's the contrast that's so disquieting.
The home is supposed to be safe, a sanctuary from the horrors of the world. When this space, and the people in it, those whom we intrinsically trust most, become the source of danger, psychological stress is heightened to the max. Surely we know our brothers, our sisters, our fathers and our mothers? Isn't the family our shelter from the storm?
Director and writer Ari Aster has called his first major film feature "a domestic melodrama", "a Greek tragedy" and "a family drama that curdles into a nightmare". At the core of this narrative is the figure of the mother.
WATCH | The trailer for Hereditary

Not that this is new territory for the horror genre - the "mother-gone-rogue", or "mother-out-of-control" or "mother-out-of-her-mind" has been a motif of a specific kind of horror film from Rosemary's Baby to Psycho to The Exorcist to The Others.
All of these films have the warped psychological state of the maternal figure at their centre, a more powerful, more accessible trauma for the audience to connect with than any supernatural element a filmmaker could draw on.
Aster has said in various interviews about the film, that he is keen to emphasise its more human, non-genre elements: "It's a film that is about people's suffering and pain and it tries to take the pain of the characters seriously." This sets it apart from the cheap, almost humorous jump-scare tactics of horror films that studios tend to pump out in what Aster calls "a very cynical way"...

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day, Financial Mail or Rand Daily Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.