Writer-Director Ari Aster makes his feature film debut with 'Hereditary', a chilling and nightmarish vision of family heritage gone to hell.
When Ellen, the matriarch of the Graham family, passes away, her daughter's family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly dark secrets about their ancestry.
As they discover more about their family's dark history, they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited.
“This is a movie about inheritance,” Ari says. “The notion of having no choice in who your family is or what's in your blood. It's about the horror of being born into a situation over which you have no control. There's nothing more upsetting to me than the idea of being absolutely powerless.”
The film stars Australian award-winning actress Toni Collette as Annie Graham, Ellen's daughter and a stay-at-home artist who creates miniature dollhouses depicting the family's troubles as a way of processing her angst.
For Annie, her mother was a cryptic figure in her life whose death leaves Annie grappling to understand the difficult relationship they shared and feeling alienated within her own family.
In 'Hereditary', Ari has moulded a domestic tragedy and the breakdown of a family into a work of supernatural horror taking creative inspiration from films of the '60s and '70s such as 'Rosemary's Baby', 'Don't Look Now' and 'The Innocents'.
“I wanted to make a simultaneously intimate and large-scale horror film that absolutely refuses to let the viewer off the hook,” he says.
“My hope is that it stays with people for a long time, and provokes them to contend with something deeper and more primal, a feeling of something inescapable.”
The basis for the film came directly from Ari's own life after he and his family endured a series of misfortunes over a three-year period that made him consider the possibility they were cursed.
“I'm always writing from a personal place, but I also love genre, and I'd never want to baldly dramatise any of the suffering that I or my family had gone through,” he explains.
“So by taking the idea of a family being cursed and then literalising that, I was able to put a lot of those feelings through a horror movie filter where the canvas demands a high level of catharsis.”
Also starring Gabriel Byrne (HBO's 'In Treatment'; 'The Usual Suspects'), Alex Wolff ('Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle'), Milly Shapiro (Broadway's 'Matilda') and Emmy Award-winner Ann Dowd ('The Handmaid's Tale'), 'Hereditary' is a shattering film that will make you wish the worst thing your parents pass on to you is a receding hairline.
'Hereditary' is in cinemas nationally from 7 June.