5 Books Like 'Hereditary' If You Just Can't Get Enough Horror This Summer
I'm sorry to say that I have seen summer's most talked-about horror movie, Hereditary and can confirm everything you've read is true: It is an extremely upsetting film. In fact, the Ari Aster-directed flick might be one of the scariest, most uncomfortable movies I've ever seen. (Warning: there are spoilers for Hereditary throughout this story) I mean, there's an accidental decapitation, ghosts, creepy doll houses, witch cults, demons, and a particularly gruesome death-by-piano wire that I will probably think about daily for the rest of the my life.
But underlying the horror and gore are very real, very human issues that will resonate with many viewers who perhaps haven't had first-hand experience with, uh, dark witch covens. Aster brilliantly and poignantly explores the tenuous line between grief and breakdown and the impact that death and PTSD can have not just upon oneself but upon an entire family and community.
Horror, in my opinion, is one of the most effective mediums for exploring the uncomfortable sides of humanity, but very few storytellers are able to gracefully utilize the genre to such ends. The books below all share some of the same themes of Hereditary and use horror to explore broader issues — and they're all so terrifying you might as well resign yourself to a few sleepless nights with the lights on.
'A Head Full Of Ghosts' by Paul Tremblay
If you're looking for another family drama with a side of demonic possession, A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay might just be the summer book for you. The Barretts — like the family in Hereditary — are fairly normal folks living a fairly normal life... until the oldest daughter, Marjorie, begins exhibiting symptoms of acute schizophrenia that some of the religious figures in the book armchair diagnose as "demonic possession." (Try to search that one on WebMd.) The medical bills are piling up, and the family still hasn't been able to find a treatment for their daughter — so they reluctantly agree to star in a reality TV show called The Possession. In doing so, they unwittingly find themselves in a battle between good and evil.
'The Haunting Of Hill House' by Shirley Jackson
I would be remiss not to mention how freakin' creepy the house in Hereditary is. Like the dioramas crafted by Toni Collette's character, Annie, the house is a spooky, labyrinth-esque backdrop for disturbing action. In The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson subverts the "haunted house" genre in an interesting way by making the house itself haunted. There's not really a ghost — just pure evil lurking in the walls and structure and foundation of the home.
'White Is For Witching' by Helen Oyeyemi
As the title of the movie indicates, Hereditary is, in fact, about demonic horrors passed down through the generations. In many ways, it feels as though Annie, her husband, and her children were never in control of their grim destinies at all. Their fate was always predetermined by the actions of the grandmother.
In White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi also plays with the idea of hereditary hauntings — and there's a creepy house, too! The townsfolk of Dover, England have always been suspicious of the Silver family home. Four generations of women with a strange, supernatural bond have spent their lives there, and Miranda, a child with a rare eating disorder that causes her to consume non-edible objects, seems particularly attuned to the ghostly side of the home.
'The Good House' by Tananarive Due
OK, I know the creepy house isn't the point of Hereditary, but dang, there is something uniquely upsetting about the idea that your home — a place of refuge and safety — is actually a hub of evil and destruction, right? So here's one more haunted house book, with a witchy grandmother to boot.
The Good House actually has a stunning amount of similarities to Hereditary: Grief-stricken mother, Angela, has just returned to the "Good House," the beloved home that belonged to her late grandmother, in search of answers about the mysterious death of her son, Corey. But she quickly discovers that her grandmother, a woman with supernatural "powers," may have put a curse on the home... and the entire community.
'Come Closer' by Sara Gran
Come Closer, like Hereditary, explores a marriage on the verge of destruction. Although the decaying relationship between Annie and her husband isn't the main plot of the horror film, it is nonetheless an important and disturbing storyline.
A successful architect in a happy marriage, Amanda seems to have the perfect life — until suddenly, everything begins to derail: She starts smoking again, she burns her husband with a cigarette in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, and she begins to dream strange, paranormal things. When she discovers a book on demonic possession, she stars to believe that her cursed new reality is the work of a demon.