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Hered­i­tary; Solo: A Star Wars Story; Amer­i­can Psy­cho; John Len­non Imag­ine: The Ul­ti­mate Edi­tion; and more.

LLike its sci-fi coun­ter­part, the hor­ror film genre is packed with “cult clas­sics.” But there are only a few hor­ror ti­tles that can lay claim to “clas­sic” film sta­tus. Uni­ver­sal Mon­sters films from the 1920s through the 1950s not­with­stand­ing (see “Boxes of Joy” on page 28), my list is lim­ited to The Shin­ing, The Ex­or­cist, Night of the Liv­ing Dead, Psy­cho, Rose­mary’s Baby, Hal­loween, and Car­rie. There are other ti­tles such as The Or­phan­age and Let the Right One In that edge close to be­ing clas­sics, but these tend to get lumped in with the cult cat­e­gory— per­haps de­servedly so.

What qual­i­ties el­e­vate a hor­ror film to clas­sic sta­tus? A highly com­pelling story, of course, but also in­spired di­rec­tion, mu­sic, and vis­ual style. And it must be au­then­ti­cally fright­en­ing, not just a rou­tine ex­er­cise in gore-splat­ter and jump-scares that the genre seems to have set­tled into.

Hered­i­tary is a film with all the mak­ings of hor­ror clas­sic. I was unim­pressed with it dur­ing my first view­ing in a the­ater, but since its re­lease on video— on Ul­tra HD Blu-ray with Dolby Vi­sion HDR, no less— I’ve found my­self re-watch­ing it over and over again. Like a true clas­sic, it holds up to re­peat view­ings, re­veal­ing new de­tails, con­nec­tions, and in­ter­pre­tive pos­si­bil­i­ties each time.

The fam­ily at the cen­ter of Hered­i­tary re­volves around An­nie, an artist who makes dio­rama-type minia­tures that de­pict events from her life. Af­ter her mother, with whom she had a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship, dies, An­nie dis­cov­ers a let­ter in a book called Notes on Spir­i­tu­al­ism tucked away among her things. The let­ter is ad­dressed to An­nie and says, “Please don’t hate me and try not to de­spair your losses…our sac­ri­fice will pale next to the re­wards.” An­nie shrugs off the let­ter— at her peril, it turns out, since the mild-look­ing ma­tri­arch shown in a blown-up photo at her fu­neral had set in mo­tion an elab­o­rate plan for the fam­ily be­fore check­ing out.

Shot dig­i­tally in 3.4K for­mat, Hered­i­tary ar­rives on Ul­tra HD

Blu-ray sourced from a 2K dig­i­tal in­ter­me­di­ate. Vis­ual dif­fer­ences be­tween the reg­u­lar Blu-ray and the up­con­verted UHD ver­sion are mostly sub­tle. Tex­tures on the 4K disc have a weight­ier, more fleshed-out qual­ity. The denser color palette lends rich­ness to green trees sur­round­ing the fam­ily’s iso­lated house, and to the or­ange jacket that odd duck younger child Char­lie wears like a uni­form. HDR is used sub­tly for the most part, though it helps to high­light cer­tain ob­jects— a few with sig­nif­i­cance to the plot. Shad­ows have a cer­tain flat­ness in some scenes, but in oth­ers look highly de­tailed. ( Hered­i­tary turns out to be a good disc for tweak­ing black level: Ap­pari­tions lurk in the shad­ows, and if your TV or pro­jec­tor’s bright­ness or gamma ad­just­ments are off, you won’t see them.)

I was sur­prised to note that the disc only has a DTS-HD Master

Au­dio sound­track, not Dolby Atmos. Even so, it’s a solid 5.1 mix, with ul­tr­a­clear di­a­logue and con­sis­tent, but not flashy, use of sur­round chan­nels. Low-fre­quency ef­fects rise to the oc­ca­sion when called for, such as one scene where a bird smashes sud­denly into a win­dow, and an­other where the sleep­walk­ing-prone An­nie knocks her head re­peat­edly against an at­tic door. Colin Stet­son’s down­tempo score sets a suit­ably grim tone for most of the pro­ceed­ings but shifts into a strangely up­lift­ing pro­ces­sional march dur­ing the film’s star­tling fi­nal se­quence.

Ex­tras get short shrift on Lion­s­gate’s re­lease. There are numer­ous deleted scenes plus a fairly stan­dard be­hind-the-scenes doc called Cursed: The True Na­ture of Hered­i­tary that fea­tures in­ter­views with cast mem­bers and first-time direc­tor

Ari Aster. (I found it in­ter­est­ing that, when asked about in­flu­ences that led to the mak­ing of Hered­i­tary, he cited both Brian De Palma’s Car­rie and Pe­ter Green­away’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover.) A still gallery of An­nie’s in­tri­cate minia­tures is also in­cluded.

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