3 Filmmaking Tips You Can Learn From Hereditary

Wednesday 29 August 2018

The horror genre is finally coming into it's own and being recognised as more than just popcorn fodder. 

Since the incredible success of last year's Get Out (of which director and screenwriter Jordan Peele won an Oscar for best original screenplay), we have seen a surge of unique and original horror films! 

Which brings me to Hereditary - this year's most controversial horror flick which has drawn some criticism -  some deemed it boring/confusing to which I have to say: 

But mostly it just makes me love it even more! 

This film is NOT your average cookie cutter cliche of a horror film and that is why I think it has divided audiences.

It makes the audience think, stay in the lingering silence and horror of what is happening on the screen. The Big Bad is not a mindless killing machine.

There is SO much I could say about  what this fantastic film teaches us, but I have tried to break it down to 3 crucial tips: 

Filmmaking Tip 1

Hereditary is fundamentally about the dysfunctional dynamic within a family and how it seeps into something far more sinister. 

The characters aren't even always very like-able, but they're relatable and that's what makes them REAL to the audience. This in turn makes them care about the characters.

  • Your characters need a PURPOSE - a journey, a conflict that stands in between their end goal because without stakes - nobody really cares without the threat of real consequences.
  • Create RELATABLE characters - audiences will invest in your story if you make the characters relatable. Perfect equals boring, REAL means gritty/ flawed/ there's something deeper to be discovered. Explore this and have fun with it in the planning/outlining stages!
  • Get COMFORTABLE and then DESTROY it - the tension is extreme in some scenes of Hereditary because director Ari Aster allows time to set the scene. The audience are almost lulled into a false sense of security. We know something awful is going to happen, we just don't know when. 

Filmmaking Tip 2

In order to make the audience care about your story/characters/their predicament, then you're going to want to take some time to develop this. 

Equally, I'm not encouraging you to get bogged down in the minute, irrelevant stuff  - I'm talking about sowing the seeds at the beginning towards the inevitable climax the audience will be getting to!

Hereditary does NOT rush the scares, it builds and builds and builds the tension to a point that when it does burst - and the characters are at their lowest - it is a nasty visceral reaction to absorb. The audience are literally squirming in their seat, because we KNEW they were going to implode on each other at some point, but made to wait it out. 

  • Be aware of what and when you want to reveal certain plot points/ character relationships/ uncomfortable circumstances. 
  • Allow the audiences time to recover before confronting them again, at their most vulnerable
  • You're in this for the long run, make it worthwhile. You WANT the audience to be dreading what's coming, to want to look but at the same time desperate not too.
They want a horror film, then prepare them to be terrified!

Filmmaking Tip 3

Timing is everything when it comes to horror! 

Sure, jump scares can be fun but overdone and it's predictable and boring. 

Hereditary does not such thing!

The most unnerving scene for me is a HUGE spoiler, so I won't spoil it. 

What I will say is - IT IS SO UNEXPECTED. 

It had me messed up for a while after watching it because the build up just before is so intense but the moment something truly horrific does happen - the audience don't actually see it. 

It is implied through the reaction of another character. 

Ari Aster is incredible at drawing out the most unpleasant scenes in this film, the audience literally have no option but to sit in the awkward, heavy and uncomfortable silence. 
  • Use silence to enhance your own work - how can you encourage an audience to feel a certain way towards what they are seeing? Does it enhance the scene? Give the silence a REASON for being there.
  • By lulling the audience into a false sense of security by having them invested in the characters slowly developing from the beginning, it makes it all the more traumatic to have a sudden and brutal death occur.
  • Decide what you want to SHOW the audience - it's horrific to see something brutal happen to a character you care about, but what about if you leave the audience unsure of what's just happened. Keep them teetering at the edge and just as they're about to recover from the shock - THE BIG REVEAL - the devastating aftermath is  finally revealed when they least expected it. THAT makes for some seriously intense horror sure to keep audiences on their toes. 

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