"What's the scariest movie you've ever seen?" Ask that question to 10 horror fans and you're likely to get 10 different answers. Still, no one is arguing that Ari Aster's debut shocker Hereditary isn't one of the most harrowing genre viewing experiences in ages. I first caught the flick last March at SXSW, where it rattled me to my very core. Now, A24, the studio that brought Hereditary to the masses, is attempting to use science in an effort to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Aster's opus is (at least) the scariest movie of 2018.
To that end, they equipped 20 moviegoers with Apple Watches to monitor their heartrates before subjecting them to Hereditary. The results were charted on a graph that you can examine at the bottom of the article. In a nutshell: A normal person's resting heartrate is usually somewhere between 60 and 80 beats per minute. During Hereditary's most traumatizing moments, however, some subjects were pushing in excess of 160 beats per minute! It's a response that's nothing short of alarming and goes a long way towards adding scientific legitimacy to claims that Hereditary is this generation's The Exorcist.
For the uninitiated, here's the gist of the film. Ellen, the matriarch of the Graham family, dies. Soon, her daughter begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. The entire family gets sucked directly into Hell in strange and disturbing ways you'll never be able to unsee. Ari Aster makes his feature debut with this nightmarish vision, turning a tragedy into something ominous and deeply disquieting.
The study was conducted last June, but expect the unprecedented buzz surrounding Hereditary to resurge, as it's now available to view at home on digital HD in advance of its slated Blu-ray/DVD release on September 19th. While Hereditary's theatrical runtime was a hefty 2 hours and 7 minutes, Aster revealed in past interviews that the first cut ran over 3 hours! While the Blu-ray/DVD isn't a Director's Cut, it will include 9 scenes that were cut before Hereditary hit theaters. That means there's likely even more life-ruining levels of trauma in store for those brave enough to explore all of the disc's special features.
While the script and cinematography for Hereditary are top-notch, the core cast's contribution to the film's success can't be overstated. Gabriel Byrne plays Steve Graham, a stalwart if brow-beaten husband and father trying to keep his family grounded during a period of extreme dysfunction. Alex Wolff is amazing as the family's ostracized son/brother Peter, while Milly Shapiro chills as his clucking sister Charlie. It's Toni Collette as Annie Graham, however, who steals the show, delivering a devastating performance that's nothing short of Oscar-worthy. If Hereditary proves too hardcore for the Academy, we can at least expect it to appear on most Top 10 Horror Movies of 2018 lists. It's been scientifically proven, after all, that it's the year's scariest! Thanks to The Telegraph for first reporting on the Hereditary study.
Hereditary heart chart