A24’s “Hereditary” enjoys a 92 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and this weekend the studio hopes horror fans will overrun theaters as they did for “A Quiet Place” earlier this year. In the latest installment of the CineFix Directors Series, writer-director Ari Aster unpacks the opening beats from his first feature — “a family tragedy that curdles into a nightmare” — starring Toni Colette as Annie, a grieving daughter and miniaturist.
“Hereditary” begins with a wide shot of a dollhouse at the center of a room. The camera zooms in on one of the dollhouse’s bedrooms, which flickers to life as Annie’s husband (Gabriel Byrne) enters, carrying a blazer on a hanger. While viewers and the characters are oblivious to the family’s impending troubles, thanks to the film’s dollhouse motif, “there is also the feeling that we’re watching everything from a more knowing, sadistic perspective,” said Aster. He then compared the larger household to the scaled-down models: “These are people who have no agency, and in the end, they are like dolls in a dollhouse.”
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Aster also cites Peter Greenaway’s unrated 1989 film “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover” as an inspiration for “Hereditary.” When he was around 12, Aster smuggled a copy from his local video store after learning that his always-composed father had been rattled by the feature, which includes performances from Michael Gambon and Helen Mirren. “I regretted watching it for many years,” Aster said. “There’s something so upsetting to me about the level of artifice in this film,” from Sacha Vierny’s cinematography to Jean-Paul Gaultier’s costumes. “What you’re left with is Greenaway’s wholesale disgust with the human race,” he said.
Watch the full clip below. “Hereditary” bows this Friday.