Even if he wasn't trying to make a horror film, William Friedkin's The Exorcist has become a legendary film in the horror genre in the years since its initial debut. However, it's also legendary for the word of mouth it generated when it first hit theaters. The film became a phenomenon that allegedly caused audiences to faint, which is why the comparisons between Ari Aster's new A24 horror film, Hereditary, and The Exorcist seem so interesting. With that in mind, I had a chance to ask the cast of the film how they feel about the comparisons to Friedkin's masterpiece, and they definitely appreciate them. When I asked Toni Collette, she specifically praised Aster's work and said:
When we were making The Sixth Sense, I remember a group of us gathered, Barry Mendel was a producer, we all went to his hotel room and watched The Exorcist. I had never seen it. I think it had aged a little. I imagine at the time it came out it would have been absolutely incredible, but it was a huge, very original sort of cinema-changing film and a profound experience that people still remember to this day watching that film. For this to be compared, obviously, is hugely flattering, especially for Ari Aster. It's his first feature. Before I'd met him, I'd seen a couple of his shorts and the script was incredible, but he is the real deal.
Films evolve over time. That's why the old black and white footage of the train pulling into the station doesn't terrify audiences like it did back in the silent era. Having not seen The Exorcist until the production of The Sixth Sense earlier in her career, Toni Collette acknowledges that the film doesn't necessarily deliver the same gut punch that it did in the 1970s. Nevertheless, she enjoys the comparisons between Hereditary and Friedkin's classic, and largely credits Ari Aster's execution for the film's critical success.
Elsewhere during the Hereditary press day in Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of asking Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro the same question during another interview. They echoed Toni Collette's appreciation of Hereditary's warm reception from audiences, and Wolff noted that he has a particular appreciation for the fact that Hereditary has gone on to become compared to classic horror films from the 1960s and 1970s such as Rosemary's Baby. They said:
Milly Shapiro: I think it's so cool that people can compare it to something that's so amazing. It's really gratifying. We all put so much hard work into it, and to see it compared to something as amazing and marvelous as The Exorcist is just really cool.
Alex Wolff: I love that. Yeah. Exorcist is one of the best. I love it when it's compared to the 1970s horror movies like Rosemary's Baby. Is it late 60s or 70s? That era. That's the coolest thing.
Check out a clip from our Hereditary interview below to hear everything the cast of the film had to say about this film's comparison to The Exorcist.