Recent studies in epigenetics provide scientific evidence for what the Old Testament writers knew: According to multiple researchers, we really do carry our parents’ trauma in our bodies. In fact, the evidence suggests we carry the impact of our ancestors’ traumas in our DNA, just as God promised, going back at least three generations. Our bodies may very well pay the price for the sins our grandparents chose or suffered at the hands of someone else.
The questions these studies raise about free will and contingency (are we all just living in Greek tragedies, born into stories we can’t control?) were heavy on my mind when I went to see Hereditary. Ari Aster’s debut film has been hailed as one of the most terrifying horror films of all time. But for almost all but the last 10 minutes, it’s a psychological study in the shockwaves that traumas—new and old—send through families.