Looking back at the dark cinematic world of Ari Aster

The UP reviews two films from horror director Ari Aster in honor of the recent release of his newest project, “Beau Is Afraid.”


Ari Aster’s first two feature length films

Melanie Gomez, Features Editor

In honor of the release of the movie, “Beau Is Afraid”, UP Features Editor Melanie Gomez takes the time to review some of the film director Ari Aster’s previous works.

Hereditary (2018)

Theatrical release poster for Hereditary (2018)

It is no wonder that Ari Aster’s Hereditary has been called one of the best modern horror films and has been an example of how the director is able to cement himself already as a horror icon with his feature-length film debut. The film is certainly a horror masterpiece that skillfully blends familial trauma with supernatural horror to create a deeply disturbing and unforgettable experience.

The film follows the Graham family as they mourn the death of their matriarch, Ellen, as well as navigating the traumatizing events that follow. 

Toni Collette’s performance as Annie, Ellen’s grieving daughter, is nothing short of breathtaking as she is one of the most underappreciated modern actresses. She perfectly captures the complex emotions of a mother who is trying to hold her family together while simultaneously dealing with the trauma of her own past growing up with her occultist mother. 

As the story unfolds, the audience is gradually drawn into the world of the Graham family, which is revealed to be plagued by generations of severe trauma and genuine darkness. Alex Wolff’s performance as Peter should also receive much more critical acclaim. As Annie’s troubled teenage son, his acting is just as equally impressive, as he navigates the horrors that are the collateral damage of his actions, resulting in another death that put a further strain on his family.

Hereditary, like other Aster films, is a slow-burn horror that takes its time to build suspense and dread. Aster masterfully uses visual cues and unsettling sounds to create an eerie atmosphere that keeps the audience on edge. The film’s visuals are stunning, with a color palette that shifts from muted grays to vivid reds, effectively mirroring the emotional state of the main characters.

The film’s climax is sure to leave a lasting impression on almost any viewer, especially with the actors and their wonderful performances. As for the ending itself, it left me with a level of uncomfortable that cannot be replicated by any other film as the viewers are left wondering about the fate of Peter. Hereditary is a terrifying and deeply emotional film that explores themes of grief, trauma, and the horrors that can lurk within families. It remains my favorite out of the Ari Aster collection of works for that very reason. 

Midsommar (2019)

Aster’s sophomore film Midsommar is a surreal and deeply disturbing horror film that takes the viewer on a journey into a remote Swedish village where a pagan cult holds a festival that only happens once every 90 years and is inspired by real-life examples of Scandinavian midsummer festivals. The film centers around Dani, played by British actress Florence Pugh, a young woman and college student who has suffered a recent family tragedy and is dealing with her own depression. Dani would join her emotionally distant boyfriend, Christian, played by Jack Reynor, and his friends on a trip to the festival.

As the group arrives in the picturesque village, they are quickly immersed in a world of bright colors, idyllic landscapes, and seemingly endless festivities. However, as the days go by, the seemingly innocent rituals of the cult take on a darker and more sinister tone, and Dani begins to unravel emotionally.

Pugh delivers a stunning performance, perfectly capturing the character’s vulnerability and growing sense of dread. The supporting cast is equally impressive, with Reynor giving a nuanced portrayal of a young man struggling with his own doubts and insecurities.

Midsommar is a film that defies categorization. It is very much equal part horror as it is a drama and dark comedy, with a dreamlike quality that adds to its unsettling atmosphere. The film and its cinematography are masterful, with long takes and hypnotic camera movements that draw the viewer deeper into the strange and increasingly terrifying world of the cult.

The film’s visuals are stunning and has a beautifully bright and colorful palette. It might as well be one of the most beautiful horror movies I have seen in my lifetime. However, the film visuals just add to the horror of Dani’s situation. As bright and lovely as the world of Midsommer could be, Dani and her companions on this trip cannot escape their fates. The sound design is also quite noteworthy, with a haunting score that perfectly complements the film’s visuals

Midsommar is one of those films that lingers in the mind long after the credits roll. It is a disturbing and unforgettable journey into the darkest corners of the human mind and a testament to the power of horror as a genre to explore complex themes and emotions. Though I preferred the themes of Hereditary, I still think that Midsommar is a wonderful watch and a great horror movie.

For any film, TV show, book, and music album recommendations for upcoming UP entertainment reviews contact Features Editor Melanie Gomez at [email protected] or at her Instagram @cupidfloats. 

Melanie Gomez is the Features Editor for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, you can contact her at [email protected] or on her Instagram page @cupidfloats.