What makes Hereditary a modern classic: Tragedy and witches!

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Director Ari Aster, Toni Collette and Milly Shapiro attends the "Hereditary" New York Screening at Metrograph on June 5, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Director Ari Aster, Toni Collette and Milly Shapiro attends the "Hereditary" New York Screening at Metrograph on June 5, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images) /

By all appearances, Ari Aster’s Hereditary has entered the permanent pantheon of horror’s all-time classics. And why not? The movie is brimming with memorable scenes, including, of course, what happens when Peter (Alex Wolff) rushes Charlie (Milly Shapiro) to the hospital. Frankly, if you don’t cringe during that scene (in a relatively good, horror-shocked way), you might not have a pulse! It really is one of those moments that get into some of our basic fears of panicked decisions going horribly wrong.

Key moments in Hereditary involve a blend of body horror and supernatural weirdness, as well as the classic tension of family drama. From a medical perspective, the scenes of Charlie’s anaphylactic shock remind us that our bodies can let us down, and can make us feel weak and vulnerable. Even without sharing her specific allergic burden, when watching those moments, it’s relatable, and I can imagine the jarring and invasive feeling of a medical emergency. Don’t we all dread any medical crisis, whether it’s what Charlie’s going through, or being intubated, or maybe undergoing a blood transfusion?

Hereditary and the dreaded accident

No one wants to be responsible for the accidental death of a loved one. In Hereditary, we see how the experience totally rips a family apart, which is the worst-case scenario. In that sense, “Hereditary” absolutely does not hold back. How do you face yourself the following morning, after the accident? What if, on top of your own guilt, a family member (in this case, Annie, played by Toni Collette) lashes out at you for it? It’s definitively a relatable horror experience if we put ourselves in the minds of the characters, and this film makes that so easy.

PARK CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 24: Toni Collette of ‘Dream Horse’ attends the IMDb Studio at Acura Festival Village on location at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival – Day 1 on January 24, 2020 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb) /

It becomes more than obvious that Annie no longer even wants Peter in the house. Additionally, of course, there are signs that Annie could break up with her husband, Steve (Gabriel Byrne). Not only must he tolerate Annie’s increasingly hostile attitude to Peter, but her increasing belief in supernatural things threatens to drive him out of the home. Of course, this is where the (admittedly rather wacky, yet freaky) supernatural elements come into play.


In addition to Pete’s driving skills called into question, Hereditary is yet another movie that (for the purposes of the story) validates the supernatural. Annie meets Joan (Ann Dowd) at a grief support group and, before very long, Joan convinces Annie to try her hand at a séance. This being a horror film, Annie has some definitive results, and at first, they seem like a blessing. However, some devilish, witchy things start to happen and, of course, the only way to beat the devil in a horror flick may be to join him!

By this point, it becomes apparent that the movie’s playing games with the viewer’s emotions/expectations, and it’s that bit of awareness that makes this more palatable to general audiences. Surely, no film truly has universal love, but when one realizes the film is basically like an amusement park ride, it allows us to breathe just a little easier, knowing it’s not just a family crisis drama. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the cast acted brilliantly, bringing the story to life. So, honestly, if you weren’t scared enough by the story, it seems like even the most jaded cynic out there would at least give the actors a bit of love here.

Final thoughts

In order for evil to win the day, it needs to get some good out of the way, and Hereditary absolutely decapitates goodness and mocks its stupid body flopping around on the floor! That’s because, even though I mention the dramatic elements, the severity of the injuries and deaths in the story cannot be denied. Hereditary spends plenty of time playing with serious themes, such as a parent’s behavior toward a child, but it leaves a trail of bodies in its witchy wake. It’s a movie that gets a lot of things right and is worth revisiting every so often.

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What are your thoughts on Hereditary? Let us know in the comments!