Ari Aster

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When it comes to the world of horror films, there are a few names that immediately come to mind – Alfred Hitchcock, Wes Craven, and John Carpenter, just to name a few. But in recent years, a new name has emerged in the genre and has quickly become a force to be reckoned with – Ari Aster.

Born on July 15, 1986, in New York City, Ari Aster is a filmmaker who has taken the world of horror by storm with his unique and unsettling storytelling style. With only two feature films under his belt, he has already garnered critical acclaim and a devoted following of fans. His debut film, “Hereditary” (2018), was hailed as one of the best horror films of the decade, while his second film, “Midsommar” (2019), solidified his place as a master of the genre.

In this article, we will take a deeper look into the rise of Ari Aster, from his humble beginnings in the indie film scene to becoming one of the most talked-about directors in Hollywood. We will explore his background, his influences, his filmmaking style, and the impact he has made on the horror genre.

Early Life and Career Beginnings


Ari Aster was born to an artistic family – his father, David Aster, was a musician and his mother, “Kiki” Koroshetz, was an artist and puppeteer. Growing up, Aster was constantly surrounded by creativity and was encouraged to pursue his own artistic endeavors. As a child, he showed a particular interest in writing and drawing, but it wasn’t until he discovered filmmaking through his father’s Super 8 camera that he found his true passion.

Aster attended high school at the Horace Mann School in New York City, where he immersed himself in the world of cinema. He spent countless hours watching classic films and studying the works of his favorite directors. After high school, he went on to study film at the American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles, graduating in 2010 with a Master of Fine Arts.

After completing his studies, Aster returned to New York and began working as a freelance editor and director for commercials, music videos, and short films. He also collaborated with his childhood friend and fellow filmmaker, Greg Mitnick, on various projects. However, it wasn’t until 2011 that Aster made his first official entry into the world of filmmaking with his short film, “The Strange Thing About the Johnsons.”

The Strange Thing About the Johnsons (2011)

“The Strange Thing About the Johnsons” is a disturbing and controversial short film that explores the dark and twisted dynamics of a seemingly happy family. It tells the story of a father who has been sexually abusing his son since he was a child, and how the son ultimately turns the tables on his abuser. The film received mixed reactions, with some praising its boldness and others criticizing it for being too graphic and disturbing.


In the Indie Film Scene


With “The Strange Thing About the Johnsons,” Aster proved that he was not afraid to tackle taboo subjects and push boundaries with his storytelling. This caught the attention of critics and audiences alike, and he quickly gained a following in the indie film scene. In 2013, he released his second short film, “Munchausen,” which follows a woman’s descent into madness as she deals with her controlling and manipulative mother.

While both of these short films were met with mixed reviews, they established Aster as a filmmaker unafraid of exploring dark and uncomfortable themes. He continued to work on short films and music videos, honing his skills as a director and gaining recognition for his unique vision.

In 2014, Aster collaborated with his friend Greg Mitnick once again on the short film “Basically.” This dark comedy tells the story of two brothers who are forced to reconnect after their father’s death. The film was well-received, winning several awards and further solidifying Aster’s place in the indie film world.

Hereditary (2018): The Breakthrough

In 2018, Ari Aster released his feature film debut, “Hereditary,” and it was met with critical acclaim and became an instant hit among horror fans. The film follows the Graham family as they deal with the aftermath of their secretive grandmother’s death. As strange and unexplainable events start to occur, the family’s relationships become strained, and they begin to unravel dark secrets about their ancestry.

One of the film’s strengths is Aster’s ability to create a palpable sense of dread and unease through his use of unsettling imagery and masterful storytelling. He also infuses the film with elements of grief, trauma, and familial dysfunction, making it much more than just your average horror flick.

“Hereditary” received widespread praise from critics, with many hailing it as one of the best horror films of the decade. It also earned over $79 million at the box office, making it the highest-grossing A24 film ever released. Aster’s debut cemented him as a rising star in the horror genre and left fans eager to see what he would come up with next.

Subverting Horror Tropes

One of the reasons why “Hereditary” resonated so strongly with audiences is because it subverted traditional horror tropes and expectations. Aster has stated in interviews that he intentionally set out to make a film that defies genre conventions and keeps the audience on their toes.

For example, the film’s marketing focused heavily on the supernatural elements, leading many viewers to believe that it would be a traditional haunted house story. However, “Hereditary” takes a sharp turn midway through, revealing itself to be more of a psychological horror film. This unexpected twist adds to the film’s impact and leaves audiences unsettled as they try to make sense of what they are seeing.

A Unique Visual Style

Another element that sets “Hereditary” apart from other horror films is its stunning visuals. Aster’s background in art and his attention to detail can be seen throughout the film, with every shot carefully crafted to evoke a specific emotion or enhance the story’s themes. He also makes use of symbolism and foreshadowing, adding layers of depth to the already complex narrative.

In an interview with IndieWire, Aster revealed that he wanted to create a visually striking film that was not only beautiful but also disturbing. He achieved this by using vibrant colors and contrasted them with dark and unsettling imagery. This juxtaposition creates a constant feeling of unease, even in moments that seem peaceful.

The Impact of “Hereditary”

Aside from the critical acclaim and box office success, “Hereditary” has had a significant impact on the horror genre. It paved the way for more elevated and artful horror films, breaking away from the jump scares and gore that had become commonplace in mainstream horror. It also inspired other filmmakers to push the boundaries and explore uncomfortable and taboo subjects in their work.

Midsommar (2019)

After the success of “Hereditary,” all eyes were on Ari Aster’s next project. In 2019, he released his second feature film, “Midsommar,” and once again, he did not disappoint. The film follows a group of friends who travel to a remote Swedish village to take part in a midsummer festival, but things quickly take a dark and disturbing turn.

With “Midsommar,” Aster proved that he was not a one-hit-wonder and solidified his place as a master of the genre. The film received positive reviews from critics, with many praising its beautiful visuals, complex themes, and shocking moments. It also earned over $47 million at the box office and cemented Aster’s status as a rising star in Hollywood.

A Stunning Visual Spectacle

One of the first things that viewers notice about “Midsommar” is its stunning visual aesthetic. From the lush greenery of the Swedish countryside to the intricate details of the festival rituals, every shot is like a work of art. Aster once again worked closely with cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski to create a visually striking film that captures the beauty and horror of the story.

In an interview with SlashFilm, Aster revealed that he was heavily influenced by classic folk horror films such as “The Wicker Man” (1973) and “The Blood on Satan’s Claw” (1971). He wanted to pay homage to these films while also adding his own unique spin on the genre. This can be seen in the film’s use of wide shots and natural lighting, which add to the sense of realism and make the horror that much more unsettling.

Exploring Complex Themes

Like “Hereditary,” “Midsommar” is not your typical horror film. While it contains elements of occultism and gore, the film’s main focus is on exploring complex themes such as grief, trauma, and toxic relationships. These themes are woven into the narrative through subtle symbolism and foreshadowing, making the film much more than just a scary movie.

For example, the opening scene of the film shows Dani (played by Florence Pugh) struggling with her mental health while dealing with the loss of her family. This sets the tone for the rest of the film, as Dani’s emotional journey takes center stage. The film also delves into the toxic dynamics of relationships and how they can have a destructive impact on one’s mental health.

The Impact of “Midsommar”

While not as commercially successful as “Hereditary,” “Midsommar” has had a significant impact on the horror genre. It further solidified Aster’s place as a masterful director, with many fans and critics praising him for his attention to detail and unique storytelling style. The film also sparked countless discussions and theories among viewers, cementing its place as a modern cult classic.

Beau Is Afraid (2023)

Beau Is Afraid is a 2023 film written and directed by Ari Aster. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as Beau Wassermann, a man who suffers from debilitating anxiety.

Beau’s life is dominated by fear. Fear of the outside world, fear of others, fear even of himself. To keep his anxiety at bay, Beau relies on medication and frequent visits to his therapist. When his mother falls ill, Beau is forced to confront his greatest terror: leaving his comfort zone and traveling to visit her.

Beau’s journey becomes a dreamlike and surreal odyssey, full of symbolism and grotesque moments. He meets bizarre characters, finds himself in paradoxical situations, and confronts his deepest fears.

Beau Is Afraid is a complex and layered film that defies easy definition. It is a psychological horror, a black comedy, an introspective journey into the mind of a fragile man. The film has divided critics, but has also won the praise of many for its originality and courage.


The Future of Ari Aster

With only two feature films under his belt, it is clear that Ari Aster is just getting started. His unique and unsettling approach to horror has made him a sought-after director in Hollywood, with many eagerly awaiting his next project. In interviews, Aster has expressed a desire to explore other genres, but he has not ruled out returning to horror in the future.

In just a few short years, Ari Aster has become a household name in the horror genre. With his unique vision and attention to detail, he has brought a fresh perspective to the world of horror and has elevated the genre to new heights. From his early days as an indie filmmaker to becoming one of the most talked-about directors in Hollywood, Aster has proven that he is a force to be reckoned with.


YearFilmGenreLong Plot
2018HereditaryHorrorThe film follows the Graham family as they cope with the death of their secretive and enigmatic grandmother. As they mourn, strange and terrifying occurrences begin to unravel dark secrets about their ancestry, leading them down a path of psychological horror and supernatural terror. The family’s descent into madness and the unraveling of their history culminate in a shocking and deeply disturbing climax.
2019MidsommarHorrorA group of friends travels to Sweden to attend a rural festival that occurs once every ninety years. Initially mesmerized by the idyllic setting and seemingly quaint traditions, they soon find themselves entangled in a sinister and increasingly bizarre series of events. As the festival unfolds, the group becomes ensnared in a nightmarish pagan ritual, testing the limits of their sanity and survival. The film explores themes of grief, trauma, and the disintegration of relationships within the backdrop of a surreal and unnerving landscape.
2023Beau Is AfraidHorrorThe movie explores the story of a young boy named Beau who grapples with intense fear and anxiety. As he navigates through his overwhelming emotions, the film delves into the psychological complexities of his experiences, offering a deep and haunting portrayal of his inner turmoil. Ari Aster’s masterful direction brings to life a gripping narrative that delves into the depths of human emotion, creating a truly unforgettable cinematic experience.


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