How Ari Aster Is Changing the Horror Game

Jodie Huffman, Contributing Reporter

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To many horror fans, nothing is better than the classics; Halloween, Scream, Friday the 13th.
These have been put into their own category, camp, full of the same tropes, serial killers,
delinquent teens, blood, gore, jump scares, and of course the final girl. Everyone appreciates the
originals, but the standards of horror were just not cutting it in the 21st century.

In the summer of 2018, Ari Aster’s Hereditary was released in theaters. Annie Graham, a
mother of two, is grieving the death of her mother. As the movie goes on, the family quickly
uncovers the dark secrets their grandmother had. Between the gruesome deaths and satanic
occult activity, Annie and her family have to learn to grapple the grieving process, mental illness,
and the cycle of generational abuse.

It wasn’t but a year later that Aster’s Midsommar was released. Horror fans are now accepting
that campy horror is a thing of the past. With Jordan Peele releasing Get Out and Us, we are
being exposed to a new kind of horror, one with themes, deeper meanings, and a shock value that
resonates with our own personal lives.

While Peele is focusing on political horror, Aster is taking a different direction. Hereditary
might have just been about a cult sacrificing the lives of one family for a demonic spirit, but
there are hidden meanings all throughout the movie, such as grief. The film starts with Annie
grieving the death of her mother. It becomes obvious that Annie has mixed feelings about her
mother’s death due to emotional abuse she endured in her childhood, and that the behavior
continued into her own children’s lives. We can all relate to Annie’s feelings if we had to endure
the cycle of abuse.

Viewers get to watch as Annie has to grieve multiple deaths at a time, and becomes more and
more obsessed with her mother’s background to find out why the cycle keeps happening. What she finds is much more sinister than she’d imagined. These themes of grief, abuse, and mental
illness are portrayed through your average hauntings, rituals, and satanic cults.

“I think it was one of the best horror films I’ve seen, there were so many different aspects of it
that kept shocking me, like learning what was going on through the generations” stated Emy
Pascual, sophomore nursing major.

“The ending wasn’t predictable and I believe there were many different meanings, it really
shocked me” said Keylee Harrell, sophomore innovative media major.

In July 2019, Aster released his second full-length film Midsommar. Not only did this movie
follow the themes of grief and mental illness, but delved into the topic of toxic relationships. A
couple in a rocky relationship, Dani and Christian, take a trip to Sweden to participate in the
midsummer festival after Dani’s family died in a murder-suicide. Of course when they arrive,
they soon realize the village they are staying with are a sacrificial cult. The audience follows
Dani’s grieving process, as well as figuring out her role in this world, and where her relationship
is going.

Fans of horror, and Hereditary, were shocked by the level of violence and disturbance this film
displayed. This film was filled with clues, symbols, and hidden meanings. Dani’s character
portrayed emotions that hit very close-to-home with many people. We saw as she came to accept
the deaths she has witnessed, the end of her relationship, and being accepted into this new
family, despite them being a sacrificial cult.

“Midsommar is a unique kind of horror I’ve never seen before. It’s a fresh change, and has a
creepy tone and awkward feeling throughout the movie” says Jordeen Smith, sophomore
accounting major.

“It wasn’t a typical horror movies with jump scares, it’s scary in a different way. The movie
gives good insight on cults. It’s very realistic and never over exaggerated, from our perspective
it’s insane and wrong, but to the cult members it was just their way of life. It’s interesting how
easily most of the characters were brainwashed” says Michala Smith, sophomore sociology
major.

Ari Aster has only released two films, but he has approached the horror genre in a totally new
fashion. Let’s hope he makes another film in 2020.