A Creepy Family Horror Film Is Climbing The Streaming Charts

The 2018 Ari Aster film Hereditary is in the top ten most-streamed movies on HBO Max.

By Nathan Kamal | Published


In the last decade or so, the term “elevated horror” has become commonplace, generally referring to a kind of scary movie that abandons Michael Myers-style slashers and jump scares for more cerebral forms of terror. While the merits of the subgenre can be debated (with many feeling it is simply a way for critics to praise a film while still holding the genre at arm’s length), it is certainly here to stay. One of the finest examples of the genre, Ari Aster’s 2018 feature-length debut Hereditary, is currently in the top ten most-watched movies on HBO Max.

Hereditary stars Toni Collette as Annie Graham, the matriarch of a small, well-to-do family in an unnamed American city. As the film begins, Collette’s estranged mother has just died, leaving her, her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), son Peter (Alex Wolff), and daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) in a confused state of mourning; the deceased is described as manipulative, cold, and distant, but death still has a way of affecting the living.


Much of Hereditary relies on a horrific and shocking event in the first act, which we will not get into, even if the spoilers are five years old. But the film is not really about the shock of supernatural cults, multiple beheadings, and spontaneous combustion. It is about generational trauma and codependency and the horrible effects that manipulative events can have on an individual and a family. In other words, it is what critics love about elevated horror.

Hereditary is anchored by an incredible (and unfortunately rare) lead performance from Toni Collette, who practically radiates tension and apprehension from the very first moment she appears on screen. While the Australian actress is not known for her work in horror movies, her performance as a woman simultaneously desperately trying to protect her family and horribly resentful of their existence instantly became a classic of the genre.

More than many other movies in the elevated horror subgenre, Hereditary does have a surprising amount of gore and traditional scares (including a disturbing if brief chase scene through the darkened family home). That may be what made the movie one of the breakthrough films of the subgenre, becoming a cultural talking point around its release, in large part due to its truly bonkers, abrupt ending.

Hereditary grossed over $82 million at the box office, becoming the then-highest performing film for the A24 distribution and production company. It launched Ari Aster as one of the preeminent horror directors of his generation, along with Jordan Peele and Robert Eggers. Aster’s next film, Midsommar, would make a star of Florence Pugh, who swiftly became one of Hollywood’s most in-demand A-listers.

Ari Aster’s next film, Beau is Afraid, recently released a trailer and promises to torment Joaquin Phoenix in his own world of family issues and uncertain reality. But Hereditary created a template that Aster has followed since, and is well worth watching. Just be prepared to be terrified, in an elevated kind of way.