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Ari Aster and his Films of Domestic Horror

By Say Peng  /  04 Jul 2019 (Thursday)

You may not have heard of Ari Aster, but you've definitely heard of his films.

The American director's debut feature Hereditary was consistently named the scariest film of 2018. 

His follow-up sophomore feature Midsommar has been described by fellow horror director Jordan Peele as having "some of the most atrociously disturbing imagery I’ve ever seen on film."

Before Aster broke out with Hereditary, he had a substantial body of short films that have explored his 

At the American Film Institute, where Aster did his Masters in filmmaking, Aster made his controversial thesis short film The Strange Things about the Johnsons.

As his first short film to enter public consciousness, The Strange Things about the Johnsons explores many of the themes that would later preoccupy Aster; mainly the theme of a family coping with trauma.

In this case, for the father character, it's the trauma of being sexually abused by your own child and for the mother, of finding out the truth. Aster likes to present a veneer of normalcy under which lurks terrible, dirty secrets. 

Aster followed up his AFI thesis short with Beau.

Though Beau does not explore the aforementioned themes, the short is Aster's first exercise at creating and sustaining tension, a useful skill that Aster would develop for his future films.

Munchausen returns to Aster's favourite themes but presents it in the ironic mode of a Disney movie.

Aster said he was inspired by the dialogue-free opening sequence of the animation Up.

Munchausen begins with optimism and love, before descending quickly into something more sinister - all the more so because of its relatability.

Aster's short films after Munchausen sees the director keen to explore the Brechtian distancing technique, which he'd later employ in Hereditary.

This is best, and most funnily, demonstrated in the short Basically, in which Rachel Brosnahan plays a spoiled socialite complains endlessly about her imperfect perfect life.

If one can describe Aster's brand of horror, it would be called "domestic horror".

In an interview for Film Comment, Aster said that "horror is when the home becomes un-homelike, unheimlich. And that is something I was thinking about a lot in this film. I wanted to make a home that became something malign and unrecognizable by the end."

Aster's latest film Midsommar has no release date set for Singapore yet, but I'm pretty sure it will soon.

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