'Horror is a lot like comedy': How Hereditary director Ari Aster made the scariest film of the year

Aster talks to Tom Power about the reaction to his highly-anticipated feature debut, Hereditary, which some are calling the scariest movie of 2018.
Hereditary director Ari Aster with Tom Power in the q studio in Toronto, Ont. (Vivian Rashotte/CBC)

Originally published on June 8, 2018

"Horror is a lot like comedy," filmmaker Ari Aster says, explaining that "you feel whether it's working or not."

He spoke to q's Tom Power about the reaction to his highly-anticipated feature debut, Hereditary, which some are calling the scariest movie of 2018 and The Exorcist of this generation

From its very first screening at the Sundance Film Festival, Hereditary was an instant sensation, making headlines for being deeply unsettling and terrifying its audiences.

"It really was palpable in the audience, you could feel a great deal of tension," says Aster. "And then at the second screening, there were people who were audibly upset. There was a woman just behind me who who kept repeating, 'too much, too much' — which was great! ... There were at least four scenes, four moments, that had the entire audience screaming in unison."

The film stars Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Ann Dowd and Milly Shapiro in what Aster describes as a "family tragedy that curdles into a nightmare" as they discover that they're cursed following the death of a grandmother. The tension builds slowly in this patient, character-driven horror film because, as Aster says, he wanted to make sure he was making a "vivid family drama" before anything else.

In a conversation with Power, Aster talks about his inspiration for the film, how he directed some of the younger actors through its more disturbing scenes, and shares what his mother thinks of it. He also addresses an unfortunate incident that happened earlier this year, where a movie theatre in Australia accidentally played the trailer for Hereditary before a screening of the family-friendly film Peter Rabbit.

"I don't know how that happened, but I love that it happened," says Aster. "It's funny because I don't see the trailer as being that scary. I love the trailer... but it is funny that even the trailer has gained that reputation."

Hereditary opens in theatres across North America on Friday, June 8. 

Watch the trailer for Hereditary below. Warning: contains graphic imagery.

Written by Vivian Rashotte. Interview with Ari Aster produced by Frank Palmer.

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