Ari Aster: 5 things to know about the new master of horror

After Heredity (2018) and Midsommar (2020), American director Ari Aster offers actor Joaquin Phoenix the lead role in his next film Beau is Afraid. While waiting for its release, Numéro returns to five whims of the new king of horror between petrifying screams, atrocious scenes and sacrificial rites…

“Beau Is Afraid” | Official Trailer HD | A24

Joaquin Phoenix lands the lead role in Beau is Afraid

Ari Aster, 36, offered the title role of his next feature film to Joaquin Phoenix, 12 years his senior. Beau is Afraid will only be released in three months and already fans of funereal static shots and tormented characters are in turmoil. The synopsis: a neurotic entrepreneur wishes to visit his mother whom he has not seen for a very long time. But Beau is hit by a car and wakes up, injured, in an unknown place… Son of a musician and a poet, Ari Aster has been delighting moviegoers since Heredity, his 2018 film appreciated a posteriori at its fair value and whose quality is still debated by the most demanding moviegoers. A provocative and destabilizing spectacle for some, a parodic genre film for others, everyone nevertheless salutes the risk-taking of the New Yorker who graduated from the American Film Institute. Ari Aster delivers another take on horror, twisting Z-movie codes to present cruel, realistic atrocity, despicable and believable scenes. Discover 5 things to know about Ari Aster, the new king of horror in cinema.

“Heredity” by Ari Aster. Trailer.

2. Ari Aster has fun confronting the generations

A recurring character in horror films – especially of the “slasher” genre which consists in letting go of a psychopath on the heels of an ingenuous band – the teenager often facilitates the writing of the horror film for his naivety and his filthy recklessness. But in his feature films, Ari Aster has fun confronting the generations: he thus opposes a bereaved mother to her dumbfounded adolescent son, opposes candid young tourists to a skinny old man in full sacrificial rite. More than a fascination for this generational divide, the filmmaker conscientiously transforms bodies and their stigmata into horrifying elements. A graphic violence made possible by Ari Aster’s science of movement: among the myriad sequence shots, the filmmaker offers static shots in which his characters are often immobile. When it comes to monsters, the petrified viewer cannot take their eyes off this static object of horror. When it comes to the victims, their paralysis voluntarily orchestrated by the director accentuates their helplessness and the anguish of the viewer.

3. A filmmaker fascinated by howling and mutilation

Ari Aster exaggerates his fascination with discomfort and bodies in his evocations of malformation, a congenital anomaly of a tissue or an organ of the human body. It repeatedly presents disfigured or mutilated characters, even in their abusive cries of fear, gaping mouths on the verge of tearing that distort the demonic faces of the protagonists. In reality, Ari Aster depicts a strange and pessimistic world, crossed by the Freudian feeling ofunheimliche (“the disturbing strangeness”). But under the guise of incestuous relationships, his handicapped and deformed characters then become mythological or even metaphorical figures, creatures in full metamorphosis.

Midsommar – Trailer VOST

3. Ari Aster’s films are inspired by his own life

Like many of his counterparts, Ari Aster recognizes that he draws inspiration from his own life to write his films. Obvious continuation of his 2011 short film The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, the film Heredity (2018) immerses us in the heart of a cursed family following the death of the matriarch. The director transcribes here a series of ordeals suffered by his own family for three years… Traumas that participated in the genesis of this testamentary and cathartic feature film. A few years later, Ari Aster tackles Midsommar (2020), a therapeutic work that evokes this time his own breakup that occurred a few months earlier.

4. Ari Aster injects ancient runes and symbols into his films

Using a black marker, Ragnar Persson has long had fun transfusing heavy metal imagery into bucolic landscapes. But these are prophetic frescoes that the Swedish artist produced in 2019 on behalf of Ari Aster. These naive and bloody works recall the medieval illustrations of the tarology, this divinatory art which is a matter of cartomancy. The drawings of pagan rites will then be transformed into wallpaper. Integrated directly into the film Midsommar (2019), they secretly announce the script of the film to the viewers. In Heredity, the scenario writer already disseminated symbols with length of shots, until the explicit satanic ritual. Ari Aster has clearly inherited the attraction of Ingmar Bergman – one of his mentors – for the iconography and symbols of mourning and death (The Seventh Seal Where Screams and whispers eg.) Designer of a fictional language for Midsommar, he will go so far as to imagine a whole runic alphabet for his film.

Midsommar (2020) by Ari Aster.
Midsommar (2020) by Ari Aster.

Midsommar (2020) by Ari Aster.

5. Ari Aster has long refused to get into horror

Screenwriter of his own feature films, Ari Aster rejects the codes of commercial horror and does not really consider himself a “horror filmmaker”. “I resisted writing a horror film for a long time because that genre didn’t really excite me, he confesses in an interview with the site The Verge. Eventually I robbed the horror section of every store I could find…” A nuance linked to his love for the genre film – from witchcraft fan Robert Egger (The Witch) to the scandalous Nagisa Ôshima (Furyo) via Lars von Trier, Gaspar Noé or Ingmar Bergman – his rejection of jump scare and dark cameras in favor of lucid but tortured adolescent characters and nightmares shot in broad daylight under a scorching sun, like Midsommarhis morbid work of 2019 with a fantastic Florence Pugh.

Beau is Afraid by Ari Aster, in theaters April 21

Ari Aster: 5 things to know about the new master of horror