The new movie Hereditary, a supernatural thriller about family secrets, is one of the scariest films in years. But the movie was more than just frightening, says horror author Paul Tremblay.

“From the opening frames of the film there was just this wonderful atmosphere of dread,” Tremblay says in Episode 317 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And I thought the performances—particularly Toni Collette’s as the mother, Annie—were just amazing and emotionally harrowing.”

In many ways Hereditary is a throwback to older films like Don’t Look Now and Rosemary’s Baby. Horror author Grady Hendrix admires that classic style, but thinks it was risky for the film to feature an old-school Satanic cult.

“Satanists are inherently laughable these days,” he says. “For most of us our main contact with Satanists are really bad amateur metal bands, or that guy you know in grad school who’s like, ‘I’m a Satanist. It means I’m a freethinker and a vegan, and I’m in an open relationship.’”

Writer Theresa DeLucci agrees that damnation just doesn’t have the same thrill as it did back in the days of the Satanic Panic. It’s a phenomenon she noticed while watching the haunted spaceship movie Event Horizon. “For the first half-hour it was terrifying,” she says. “And then as soon as they were like, ‘It’s been to hell!’ I was like, ‘Oh. Hell. Meh. OK.’”

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley thinks it might be better for horror films to take a cue from the movie Kill List, and feature cultists who eschew Satan and worship something new and mysterious instead.

“There’s this weird cult out in the woods and they worship big wicker statues or something,” he says. “I don’t even know what it is. It’s never named what it is. It’s just really weird, and it’s more powerful because of that.”

Listen to our complete interview with Paul Tremblay, Grady Hendrix, and Theresa DeLucci in Episode 317 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Paul Tremblay on Hereditary:

“I feel like too many horror writers and filmmakers sort of just assume that the default is, ‘The horror movie must be all atmosphere first, and everything else second.’ I think it would have been more effective—the ending in particular would have been more effective—if we had actually seen, for lack of a better term, ‘normal’ interaction between Annie and Steve. … It’s not that they had to be lovey-dovey from the beginning, but it would have been nice to believe at some point that they had actually cared for each other. I mean, the rest of the movie is about their descent and their breakup, but there was no sense of them ever having a relationship of any sort, I thought.”

Theresa DeLucci on horror studios:

“[A24] put out The Witch, Hereditary, and Green Room—which I thought was wonderful. … It’s more adult-oriented horror, for an older audience, and Blumhouse is more old school, for teenagers, where they get you in the seat with these conceits—like The Purge, like Unfriended. ‘Oh, it’s the evil Facebook movie. Oh, it’s the one night a year where you can kill people.’ Kind of like when you’re hanging out with friends, and you’re teenagers and you’re stoned, and you’re like, ‘What if people were allowed to kill each other for one night of the year and it was legal, man, what would you do?’ And none of them would say anything like what they would actually do, which is pirate movies and stuff like that. It immediately goes to rape and murder.”

Grady Hendrix on post-apocalyptic stories:

It Comes at Night drives me crazy because I can’t stand movies where there’s been some disaster, and now everyone’s an asshole. It’s like ‘asshole rays’ have hit the Earth. That’s never what happens in real life. Every time there are these big disasters, people act more altruistically. It’s just a fact. And so when these movies are like, ‘Hey man, we’re all just animals. If I took away your cell phone, you’d be eating your baby in about five minutes,’ that whole Lord of the Flies thing, it is a big line of bullshit. It just reminds me of those kids who listen to Slipknot and are total edgelords in high school. … I’m just like, ‘Oh my god, yes, you’re edgy. OK, fine. Marilyn Manson rules. It drives me bananas.”

Grady Hendrix on Hereditary’s King Paimon:

“It’s from the Key of Solomon, which is a medieval grimoire. You know, these guys used to be such nerds about Hell. They’d be like, ‘Yes, and there are 72 upper demons in the aristocracy of Hell, and this one is a duke, and he commands 42 legions, and this one is a baron, and he commands 22 legions.’ It’s like real D&D worldbuilding with that kid who never actually played D&D, he just kept assembling his dungeon bigger and bigger. … And [King Paimon] always comes with his camel. He’s inseparable from his camel, and I think the camel talks—these demons all get a little silly when you go all the way to the end. So I want to know where they’re getting his talking camel from, because that’s awesome.”

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