It's not rare to hear a director introduce their debut feature at a festival by calling it a "personal film." The process of making any piece of art, especially one as time-consuming and work-intensive as movie, is often an act of bloodletting. What's surprising is when that passion project is as terrifying, unsettling, and deeply sorrowful as Hereditary, a haunted-house film that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. When the movie was over and director Ari Aster stepped out on stage for a post-screening Q&A, you wanted to give him a hug.
Once the applause died down, the filmmaker, dressed in jeans, glasses, and a sweater over a collared shirt, fielded a question from the moderator about the movie's origins. He was cryptic, noting that he wrote the script four years ago. "I had gone through some stuff with my family," he said. "I'm always working from a personal place but I'm not one to dramatize things from my life."