“Don’t Look Now” immediately hits you with the death of John (Donald Sutherland) and Laura Baxter’s (Julie Christie) daughter, Christine (Sharon Williams) by drowning. Before she falls into the pond on the grounds of the couple’s English country home, she’s shown running through the foliage, only to wind up beneath the surface after trying to retrieve her ball from the water.
With “Hereditary,” Ari Aster paid homage to Nicolas Roeg’s haunting prologue by having the daughter of the Graham family, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), wander the backyard of her home wearing a hoodie similar in color to Christine’s coat. Charlie is shown walking through the greenery in a scene filled with Roeg-esque shots, including a zoom out from the bird’s head in Charlie’s hands, hinting at her coming decapitation. That dark foreshadowing and focusing on significant objects is very reminiscent of the “Don’t Look Now” director, who used things like the smashing of glass to portend something sinister.
In Aster’s scene, there’s also an overhead shot that gives an unusual perspective on Charlie’s wandering, which is vaguely reminiscent of a shot from the opening of “Don’t Look Now.” Before Christine falls in the pond, she’s shown running along the bank but only her reflection is in frame, so she appears to be running upside down in a grim foreshadowing of her fall into the water. In “Hereditary,” we’re shown Charlie from a top-down shot that has a similarly eerie effect, focusing on just the girl’s head, which will of course soon be lying by the side of the road in what is perhaps the most unsettling scene in “Hereditary.” It all adds up to Aster trying to recreate the atmosphere he so admires in “Don’t Look Now,” which he once characterized as “a warm, uncanny hug of doom.”