Is Hereditary, one of the year’s best horror movies and an early contender for movie of the year, based on a true story? Not really, but hearing from director Ari Aster, the film may be rooted in more truth than you might think.

In theaters now, Hereditary is the debut feature from Ari Aster about a family that comes undone by shared trauma that beckons a dark force to their peaceful home. It isn’t “based on a true story” like other popular horror films claim to be — such as the 1982 classic Poltergeist, 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose, or 2013’s The Conjuring — but Aster has admitted there’s some truth to his terrifying movie.

“The feelings behind the film are very personal,” Aster told Inverse in a phone interview. “When I watch the film, I’ll remember certain times in my life just based on the mood.”

An AFI alum who previously directed shorts like The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, Munchausen, and Basically, Aster’s auteur sensibilities come through in Hereditary. All of his films often deal with families who break apart because of self-destructive individuals. But while Aster’s newest endeavor might have been inspired by personal aspects of his real life, he maintains: “Ultimately, the story and the characters are invention.”

Hereditary
It's probably a good thing 'Hereditary' isn't based off a true story.

In a Q&A in New York last week prior to the film’s wide release, Aster revealed Hereditary came out by some necessity. “I came to the genre pretty cynically,” he admitted, “I’ve been trying to get several films off the ground and they were all the same scope as this film, belonging to different genres. The question becomes, what do I want to do? Where do I fit into the genre? What are my fears? If there is a tradition I want pay tribute to, what is that tradition?”

He continued: “Yes, there were certain things I was working through on a personal side.” However, he repeated his point about using genre to filter “personal shit,” adding that “something else” came out of it.

“The way I was pitching the film, this was a family tragedy that curdles into a nightmare in the way life can feel like a nightmare when things fall apart or a disaster strikes,” he said during the Q&A. “In that way, the film pays as much to the domestic melodrama as it does the horror genre.”

Hereditary is out now in theaters.