Movies to Watch With Hereditary

Summer means seeing movies with the whole family. Something breezy. Something light. Something like Hereditary, which should give your family plenty to talk about at the ice cream parlor afterward. If anyone can still speak that is.

Even in our exaggerated world, it’s incredibly rare for a movie to be dubbed “the scariest of the year” by so many different critics and fans, which is reason enough to get hyped for the Toni Collette-starring grief fest. Trust me. I googled “scariest movie of the year” for every year for the past 10 years, and the sentiment is hardly ever common enough to earn a consensus (shout out to The Witch). There were years that no one used the phrase at all, but not this year! Hereditary and A Quiet Place are dueling for the honor by making it difficult to eat roast pigeon or popcorn during your movie.

Here are 6 movies to watch after (after!) you see Hereditary and stop screaming. Or while you’re still screaming. Either way.

The Witch (2015)

Paranoia strikes deep. I know you’ve already seen it, but with the release of Hereditary, The Witch deserves another look for two reasons. One, both were given the rare “scariest movie of the year” treatment and lived up to the hype. Two, the same hook scraping at your nervous system in The Witch and Hereditary is the small crack in the fault line of the family that splinters and rips and consumes. The A24 connection is good, too.

Black Phillip could just be a goat, and the horror of the film would be the same. All work and no play might have made Jack a dull Puritan farmer, or his daughter may give her body and soul to the devil each night in the woods, but the end result would be the same. A family devoured by itself. By distrust. By an internal force so vile they’re determined to prove it’s outside themselves.

The ‘Burbs (1989)

Joe Dante’s fearful comedy is more complicated than most give it credit for. It’s Rear Window played for laughs. The excruciating anxiety coursing through Tom Hanks’s overwhelmingly average suburbanite dude is the fear of being catastrophically wrong about your benign neighbors. Of seeming crazy or bigoted. Or of doing nothing when you suspected the people next door (“He was always so quiet!”) of doing something heinous.

The denizens of Mayfield Place all have their quirks, but their Spidey sense tingles when vaguely Eastern European neighbors The Klopeks move in and start doing strange things at night. At the tail end of the Cold War and the middle of suburban suspicion aided by The Stepford Wives and PoltergeistThe ‘Burbs turned bored men into vigilantes. Anchored by Hanks’s performance, Carrie Fisher’s arid wit as his wife, and “Illinois Nazi” Henry Gibson’s shifty-eyed mastery as the Klopek patriarch, the movie is really about a longing for adventure in a world of little boxes that all look the same.

Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny, and Girly (1969)

This movie, which is a horror film if you’re American and a horror comedy if you’re British, is bonkers. It imagines a wealthy family insulated by their money and power who have turned to madness and murder through the guise of childish glee. A precursor to Funny Games, you can also see a kernel of Get Out at its satirical heart: specifically the young Sonny (Howard Trevor) and Girly (Vanessa Howard) prowling the London mod scene for men and women to lure back to their estate for fun and head-chopping.

That’s where a prostitute (Michael Bryant) comes into the picture. They dub him New Friend and force him to play their psychopathic game of dress up and make believe, but he endeavors to turn their whole “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” vibe against them in order to escape.

The Woman (2011)

Another Sundance shocker about what’s hiding in your neighbor’s basement, Lucky McKee’s feral delight is one more example of the bored middle-class white bro deciding to take out his jollies on a woman he wants to “civilize.” Unfortunately for him, Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) never saw Offspring, because the woman he netted (Pollyanna McIntosh) is a cannibal who probably won’t be too forgiving when the chains come off.

Allegiances shift and fracture as the family project intensifies, and the whole damned thing is supercharged by dueling virtuoso performances from McIntosh, who snarls and contorts and slaps Darwin in the face, and Angela Bettis, who demures and explodes as the wilting wife and mother. It’s an audacious, thoughtful film that doesn’t disappoint in the blood department.

The Seventh Victim (1943)

Watching The Seventh Victim, you can’t help but be oppressed by the sense of inevitability. Despite the familiar structure of a young woman (future Oscar winner Kim Hunter) searching for her lost sister (noir vamp Jean Brooks) in the big bad city (New York City), producer Val Lewton and director Mark Robson never give us much hope that things will turn out okay. The dread comes not from what danger might befall our intrepid hero, but what injury we’re certain will befall everyone.

Plus there’s a Satanic cult. More than most movies about worshiping evil, The Seventh Victim is explicit about the Satanists’ hunt for Brooks’ character representing the relentless march of the suicidal to self-harm. Like her sense of depression and nihilism, the group will not stop until she is dead.

Hitchcock fans will also notice a shower scene that feels awfully familiar.

Zwart Water (Two Eyes Staring) (2010)

An artistic mother, a detached young daughter, a past shrouded in secrecy. The emergence and success of Hereditary practically begs for cheerleading the Dutch slow-burn horror Two Eyes Staring. In her family’s creaky new digs, nine-year-old misanthrope Lisa (Isabelle Stokkel) befriends the ghost of her mother’s twin sister, but her mother says she never had a sister, so it’s complicated.

This isn’t the type of haunted house story where lamps fall over and breath gets visible for a second and lights blink to signal a spiritual entity. The ghost in Two Eyes Staring is a physical presence we get to spend a lot of time with, which is a bold move that pays off greatly, making this a different beast altogether.

The Mix

Hereditary is 95% drama about a family enduring sorrow and 5% supernatural terror. The fractured grieving process is harrowing, and the horror imagery takes up residency inside your head for weeks. Ari Aster’s feature debut follows in a grand tradition of suspicion and distrust as catalysts for fear – a natural extension of Aster’s devilishly weird short The Strange Thing About the Johnsons where we get to meet yet another family harboring taboos.

If you’re looking for more double feature opportunities, take your anxiety medication and dust off your copies of Rosemary’s Baby and The Wicker Man. The Babadook is another natural option, but let’s not pretend anyone can handle watching it and Hereditary back to back.

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