Ebert Film Fest will get creepy with ‘Hereditary’ and Hitchcock

“Hereditary,” written and directed by Ari Aster, who also made last year’s “Midsommar,” will be one of the films screened at this year’s Roger Ebert’s Film Festival.

Poster image courtesy A24

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Horror will get its due at the 22nd annual Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, or “Ebertfest,” with at least two films from the genre – one recent and one classic.

Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” from 2018 was announced today by festival co-founder, producer and host Chaz Ebert. Film critic Matt Zoller Seitz called the film “creepy beyond belief” in the opening line of his four-star review.

Actor Alex Wolff, who plays the eldest son in the grieving family at the center of the story, will be a festival guest.

The classic film will be one from horror master Alfred Hitchcock, yet to be announced.

Ebertfest will run April 15-18 at the Virginia Theatre, a restored 1920s-era movie palace in downtown Champaign, with related talks and panel discussions at the nearby Hyatt Place or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Hereditary” won in a half-dozen categories in both the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards and the Fright Meter Awards, including awards for best wide-release film and horror movie, respectively, and best supporting actor awards for Wolff.

Astor, however, in a trailer for the film, said he hoped it functioned not only as a “very satisfying genre film,” but “as a serious film about grief and trauma” in telling the story of a family dealing with the loss of its matriarch. Seitz, in his review, wrote “It’s not often that a horror movie so dedicated to the low art of the jump scare seems genuinely interested in the wider issues that it raises, but ‘Hereditary’ is that kind of movie.”

Two other festival screenings, previously announced, will be Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Cotton Club Encore,” a remastered and restored version of the 1984 original, with added scenes and music, and “There’s Something About Mary,” directed by brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly.

The remaining schedule of films will be announced in the next few weeks along with additional directors, actors, critics and others who will participate in onstage discussions following screenings.

The festival, sponsored by the U. of I. College of Media and Chaz Ebert, presents celebrated films and other cinematic works overlooked by audiences, critics or distributors.

Roger Ebert was an Urbana native, U. of I. journalism graduate and Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times who died in 2013. He co-founded the festival with his wife, Chaz. Films for the festival are selected by Chaz and festival director Nate Kohn based on established criteria and lists Roger Ebert made over the first 15 years of the festival.

Festival passes covering all screenings during the festival are available for $150, plus processing. Four passes purchased together are $510 instead of $600, a 15% discount.

Also available are a small number of U. of I. student passes at $100 each.

The passes, limited to 1,000, can be purchased through the Ebertfest website, the Virginia Theatre website or the theater box office, 203 W. Park Ave., Champaign, 217-356-9063.

Updates will be posted on the festival website. Tickets for individual movies will be available April 1.

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