Following on from my previous post on Jordan Peele (which you can read here), I thought I would discuss another writer/director whose work in the horror genre has caused waves in recent years. Ari Aster is a writer/director who has used the horror films of the past to inspire and create horror films for modern times. Again his filmography consists of two feature films but both of these have created an impact and have been the basis for much discussion. Both are critical and commercial successes and are among the most profitable films for its distributor, A24.
What Aster does particularly well is how he explores mental health in his protagonists. He isn’t afraid to push his characters to the very edge of breaking point and allow the plot to explode into chaos. I have previously written a post on how anxiety is used in Midsommar and Darren Aronofsky’s mother! that you can read here and the points can be applied to Annie in Hereditary.
Ari Aster’s feature debut Hereditary released in 2018 and in a similar vein to Get Out has become a classic in modern horror. Toni Collette plays Annie, a miniatures artist and mother of two who believes that her and her family are being haunted after the death of her mother. This film led one of the best marketing strategies in recent years as it completely misled the audience in terms of what it was about. Collette is nothing short of phenomenal as Annie with her unpredictability and hysteria. As well as Collette, Milly Shapiro who plays Annie’s daughter, Charlie, does a fantastic job in her feature debut. Aster’s direction and script is really tight and well-rounded but Collette’s performance elevates the entire film-watching experience and it’s insane that her performance wasn’t recognised on the awards circuit. Annie is a deeply complex character who finds it difficult to live with her family as the hauntings become more severe. The script serves as a boiling pot for Annie that eventually blows up in an argument between her and her son, Peter (Alex Wolff) that is among the best acting of the year.
Aster’s second film, Midsommar, was released only a year after its predecessor and it is completely different and exciting in every way. Starring Oscar-nominee Florence Pugh as Dani, a student who recently lost her entire family after her sister commits a murder-suicide, who goes to Sweden with her emotionally distant boyfriend and his friends for a summer festival at one of the friend’s commune. I have written a fuller review of Midsommar here which you can read here but in short, I absolutely love this film. It was my favourite film of 2019 and with good reason. The way it explores relationship deterioation and manipulation as well as living with anxiety and depression felt very real. Despite being in an open space, the direction felt claustrophobic to reflect Dani’s mental health and overwhelmed state of mind. There is a lot to be divulged and analysed in this film which makes it enjoyable to watch time and time again. Pugh is exceptional as Dani and the supporting cast lead by Jack Reynor who plays her boyfriend, Christian as well as WIlliam Jackson Harper and Will Poulter as Christian’s friends Josh and Mark, respectively are all fantastic and dynamic.
Aster has done a great job with his two features with both featuring brilliant female protagonists. I am looking forward to seeing what Aster brings out next. Midsommar particularly provided one of my favourite cinema experiences as the attestupa scene was one I did not see coming at all.
What do you think of Aster’s films? Let me know in the comments below!