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The horror genre is firing on all cylinders right now, and it feels decidedly reminiscent of the 1960s and 1970s when scary films went through a similar arthouse phase. Few modern films have ever harkened back to that era quite like Ari Aster's Hereditary, which has drawn notable comparisons to films like The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby. I recently sat down with Hereditary star Alex Wolff to ask him why Hereditary feels so old school, and he explained that it's because the film takes a character-first approach to its story. The Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle actor explained:
I think that it's about the characters. The script works on its own without the horror, just as a family drama. Just as nuanced characters interacting, the family sort of disintegrating, tearing at the seams. That is something that has never been done in this way, where it's as if you're watching for the first hour of Ordinary People or something, or watching a movie that works on its own, and then with the additional layer of this terrifying undertone that goes crazy at the end. That's what makes those original movies so good, is those characters are really great and I think the performances are really great in those old movies. So, we were just trying to emulate... that's why those are classics.
It's a simple shift, but it makes sense. Some horror studios such as Blumhouse have successfully taken an idea-first approach to some of the best horror movies (see: Happy Death Day) over the last few years, but Hereditary is a different beast. Per Alex Wolff's remarks during our conversation, Hereditary would work without the horror element, as it harkens back to classic Hollywood dramas like Robert Redford's Ordinary People just as much as it honors classic horror.
This comparison of Hereditary and classic horror cinema of the 1960s and 1970s also makes perfect sense when we look at the mentality that drove some of the most beloved horror movies ever made. In fact, The Exorcist's William Friedkin has specifically opened up about the development of his demonic horror classic in recent years and admitted that he wasn't trying to make a horror movie in the first place; he was merely trying to make a family drama with a supernatural element. In the same regard, Hereditary has approached its story with a similarly basic formula of attempting to tell a riveting drama.
Check out a clip from CinemaBlend's interview with Alex Wolff below to hear everything that he had to say about Hereditary's classic horror DNA!
If you want to see how Hereditary honors a legacy of classic horror cinema for yourself, then make sure to check it out in theaters right now! Also, make sure to check out our full Hereditary review to see what we had to say about the film, and head over to our movie premiere guide to get more information on all of the other films that are going to debut this year!