Terrifying new horror film 'Hereditary' has not one, but two Ann Arbor connections

Film's composer and laser artist are Ann Arbor natives

By Matt Giles - Associate Producer

Still from "Hereditary," the terrifying new film from writer/director Ari Aster. (Credit: Michigan Theater)

ANN ARBOR - There are many different things you experience when you see "Hereditary," the bold, terrifying debut from writer/director Ari Aster. In many ways, it is a rare example in filmmaking of using all the tools at one's disposal. A variety of elements have to work together to pull off something as creepy and unsettling (to put it mildly) as "Hereditary," but two of the keys for a film like this are the film's music as well as the lighting design. It turns out that both were created by Ann Arbor natives, which adds a certain hometown pride when watching "Hereditary," at least in the moments when you're not squirming in your seat or covering your eyes and ears at what's being shown on screen.

According to the Arts Alliance, Colin Stetson, the film's composer, is a multi-instrumentalist who was born in Ann Arbor and attended the University of Michigan School of Music. Mike Gould was the laser artist on the film (part of the lighting design team) and is an Arts Alliance member as well as an Ann Arbor native. Both artists' work are truly breathtaking and add the necessary eerie, spooky and haunting tone that "Hereditary" has throughout.

In an interview with Pitchfork's Larry Fitzmaurice, Stetson said that he was influenced by strings and synths, the two things that, according to Stetson, are used exclusively for every horror score in existence. "I wanted to do so in a way that wasn’t recognizable, so I tried to achieve certain effects you’d traditionally get with a string ensemble, but using nontraditional instruments to do so," Stetson said. 

"I went pretty hard into clarinets. When the PR team wrote a press release for the score, they made a note saying that we relied on a massive string ensemble, which I thought was funny -- all of it is me playing and layering enormous amounts of clarinet." 

You can read Fitzmaurice's full Pitchfork interview with Stetson here

Some critics, meanwhile, have taken notice of Gould's lighting design in "Hereditary." Writing about the film, Ars Technica's Peter Opaskar called "Hereditary" a slow-burn horror film, "Which employ the magic of cinema to turn everyday objects and activities into the most dread-inducing things you've ever seen." One method of achieving this slow burn, Opaskar argues, is the lighting, which can make a "Casual stroll down a normal corridor to feel downright satanic."

You can read Opaskar's complete take on the film for Ars Technica here

"Hereditary" is currently playing at the State Theatre in Ann Arbor. For tickets and showtimes, visit statetheatrea2.org.

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