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Martin Scorsese's favourite 21st-century horror film

As a student, critic and practitioner of film, Martin Scorsese is more than just a director. The iconic director is actively engaging with the world of cinema, helping to steer it in a beneficial direction. Though he has personally never engaged with the horror genre himself, he remains an individual constantly tapped into all avenues of the cinematic medium, even preparing a list of his own eleven favourite horror films.

In that list, Scorsese includes the likes of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Jack Clayton’s The Innocents and 1980s The Shining, elaborating on his love for Kubrick’s classic adaptation, noting: “Kubrick made a majestically terrifying movie…where what you don’t see or comprehend shadows every move the characters make”. 

Personally inspired by Kubrick, director and screenwriter Ari Aster went from budding young filmmaker to one of the horror genre’s most respected names in the space of just one film in 2018. Hereditary became admired by both audiences and critics alike as one of modern cinema’s very best horror films, instantly infamous for its mix of the suburban supernatural with sprinkles of cult horror. 

Catching the attention of Martin Scorsese, the director spoke to Kent Jones during the 57th New York Film Festival about Aster’s debut feature film, calling Hereditary an “amazing” feat of filmmaking. Elaborating on his love for the film, Scorsese commented: “What I really think is powerful in the film is really the family dynamic and what this kind of metaphor is,” noting the dinner sequence and its aftermath as “wonderful filmmaking”.  

Ari Aster’s Hereditary succeeds because it is essentially a family genre that happens to have horror elements weaved into its very identity, as Scorsese observes the film is, “Disturbing, there’s no doubt, I mean it’s a horror film that way, but, it’s more than that. It reminds me of the best of the horror of the Val Lewton films, and that sort of thing”. Continuing, he compares Aster’s film to the heights of classic horror titles, including films such as The Changeling, The Haunting and The Innocents. 

There’s a hereditary sickness that runs through the core family of Aster’s film, an invisible illness that plants its seeds in the mind and body, plaguing the family with misfortune whether it be real or simply psychological. In the end, it is really a film about grief, how one handles it and how one never truly forgets its presence. As Scorsese rightfully states about the film, “The horror aspects of it they shock you in a good way I think, they shock you into a kind of awakening, in a way, of the real pain of these people. It really does, it’s almost like dream nightmares in the middle of the day that you’re having”. 

Horrifically hopeless, dread is built upon within an intense hotbed of guilt, envy and regret with help from fantastic performances across the board. Hereditary is certainly one of the century’s very best horror films, and it seems as though Scorsese agrees. 

Take a look at the full clip of Martin Scorsese’s discussion with Kent Jones below.

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