Approaching the public release of his second film, writer/director Ari Aster is not only looking to the future, but also reflecting on his recent past. Last summer delivered a smash hit to Aster, as his debut film Hereditary shocked audiences to the core, by dividing and exciting them at the box office.
While it may not seem like there’s a direct comparison between that film and his latest film, Midsommar, Ari Aster is keen to draw parallels between both films. In particular, he believes that the following material is what makes the two films so similar:
In a lot of ways, Midsommar and Hereditary are both existential horror movies. They’re dealing with fears that have no real remedy; questions about death and whether you can really know the people closest to you. We open the film by having this woman be thrown into a very serious existential dilemma where she is rendered — in one fell swoop — an orphan, and inherent to the film’s trajectory, the story is very much a fairytale. At least, that’s how I see it. I wanted to present a dynamic in which neither party is awful to the other one, but they’re absolutely wrong for each other.
The differences between Midsommar and its predecessor are obviously most seen in the approach to those existential questions Ari Aster loves to ask. In Hereditary, we saw grief and tradition make life a living Hell for Toni Collette and her family, after the passing of her character’s mother opened up the film.
Midsommar’s inciting incident is a tragedy that befalls Florence Pugh’s Dani around the time that she and her boyfriend Christian, played by Jack Reynor, are going through a rough patch in their relationship. What starts as a surprise vacation that is meant to ease the pain fast turns into a world of suffering, as the pair and a group of Christian’s friends attend a Swedish ritual that gets stranger by the moment.
Some writers and directors, especially when starting out, will sometimes use the opportunity of telling similar stories through multiple projects as a way of finding their voice. However, seeing as Ari Aster confirmed to THR that he really doesn’t see himself as a “horror” director, that makes him uniquely qualified to make films like Midsommar that not only frightens and surprises audiences, but even actors auditioning for such projects.
When it comes to the horror masterminds in Hollywood, it always seems to come down to one of two types of directors. You’re either a William Friedkin type, who doesn’t aim to show the horror, but rather the grounded drama of a situation like The Exorcist, or you’re a Jordan Peele, who’s such a devoted fixture to the community that he wears his horror director badge proudly and deliberately.
In either case, the common thread is that the conviction of the work brings someone like Ari Aster to the conclusions and developments that make his films as effective as they are. Much like comparing the tones of Midsommar and Hereditary, both the similarities and the differences make such projects the successes that they are.
Midsommar brings its bright brand of horror to theaters in early showings tonight. If you’re not interested in scaring yourself with such horrific sights, we do suggest you head over to the 2019 release schedule, to see if anything else this summer has to offer jumps out at you!