Check out my profile, and you’ll find that my favorite genre is horror. Sure, horror movies are a dime a dozen, and most don’t even scare me. But Ari Aster is special. Even though he only has 2 feature length films to his name, both of them have disturbed me to point that I’ve lost sleep at night. But which is the better movie? Hereditary or Midsommar?
Now, I’ve done plenty of these grudge matches. I’ve pit sequels, rap biopics, and even Batman and Moon Knight, against each other. But one thing I’ve never done is decide which is the better standalone movie from the same director. So, that’s what I plan to do! I’ve broken it up into separate categories to ultimately decide which Ari Aster movie is better—Hereditary or Midsommar. Oh, and mega spoilers below.
Not all horror movies have great storylines, but thankfully, both of Ari Aster’s films have compelling narratives. But which one deals with the occult better?
An artist, played by Toni Collette, buries her mother, and it all goes downhill from there. We learn that the family might be directly connected to a Satanic cult, and that a certain demon named Paiman wants a body. Preferably male.
After the death of her family, a young woman, played by Florence Pugh, goes on a vacation with her boyfriend to Sweden to see the Midsummer festival. But it quickly spirals into insane territories and is more a fever dream than anything else. Oh, and there’s a bear in a cage for some reason.
The Story Victor: Hereditary
I love how bizarre Midsommar gradually gets, but Hereditary’s story is much more cohesive, and in that way, much more unsettling.
The Lead Performances
From Jamie Lee Curtis to Bruce Campbell, every great horror movie needs a fantastic lead. But which Ari Aster film has the stronger main character?
Hereditary’s Lead Performance
Toni Collette delivers an astounding performance that goes from grief, to more grief, to…even more grief! But never have the layers of grief been so fully realized on film.
Midsommar’s Lead Performance
Florence Pugh’s performance is interesting. The grief is always underlying, but you can tell that she’s trying to smile her way through it. But she can’t. It’s a complex performance and one that Pugh definitely pulls off.
The Lead Performance Victor: Hereditary
Florence Pugh’s performance is exceptional, but I actually think it’s a little too subtle, while Collette’s performance is Oscar-worthy.
This might be a strange category for horror, but some people have called Ari Aster’s horror movies… funny? And not just one person, either but multiple people. So, which is the…funnier?...horror movie?
I don’t know how anybody can find a movie where a little girl gets her head knocked off by a pole funny, but I guess there’s a sort of dark humor that can be had in this film. There’s one scene toward the end where a naked guy is just chilling in the corner that got a chuckle out of me (I remember thinking, This guy’s here to party). But overall, I don’t think Hereditary is funny. Horrifying, yes. But funny? No.
Okay, I can definitely see the humor in Midsommar. In fact, I laughed multiple times while watching it, which was good since it relieved the tension. From the bear that is randomly sitting in a cage, to the old dude getting upset that a kid is pissing on his ancestors, to the infamous crying scene, Midsommar is so weirdly wonderful and bizarre that I find it kind of hard not to laugh.
The Humor Victor: Midsommar
Again, I’m not really sure how Hereditary could be considered funny, but Midsommar definitely wins in the humor department.
Some horror movies have more interesting settings than others. From the single room of the first Saw to the apocalyptic mall in Dawn of the Dead, a setting can make a horror movie. But of the two Ari Aster films, which has the better location?
Hereditary takes place in a nondescript town and mostly in a single house. We get to see a basement, an attic, a treehouse, and a living room with a boss fireplace, as well as a classroom, but that’s pretty much it. The horror is more in the actual narrative than anything else.
Midsommar takes place in beautiful Sweden. It’s idyllic and lovely, which makes the horror even more harrowing since you wouldn’t think anything terrible would happen there, like an elderly person stepping off a cliff to their death and then getting their head smashed in. I’ve never more wanted to go to a location and less wanted to go to a location than I did while watching Midsommar.
The Setting Victor: Midsommar
Hereditary’s setting is pretty tame in comparison to the splendor of Midsommar’s.
I mean, duh, a horror movie should be scary, right? So, out of the two Ari Aster films, which one is scarier?
Let me tell you. Hereditary scared the ever-loving crap out of me for days. For days! Not since the original The Grudge had I been this disturbed by a horror movie. Every time I would close my eyes, I would see Toni Collette’s character hanging upside down and banging her head against the attic door. (Shivers) It’s just the overall tone that does it for me. It’s so unsettling and visceral that it really got deep into my skeleton and never let go. Even now, I have a hard time processing it. It’s just spooky, spooky stuff, and it’s one for the ages.
Midsommar isn’t so much scary as it is unnerving. But it’s for that reason that it stuck with me. Especially the ending where the boyfriend is burning to death inside that creepy yellow house. Or that scene where Florence Pugh’s character sees her mother amongst the dancers. It’s a film that at times doesn’t even seem scary at all, which is especially disarming when the scary stuff does actually start happening.
The Scares Victor: Hereditary
I love Midsommar, but if somebody were to ask me the scariest movies I’ve ever seen, then Hereditary would be high on that list, and Midsommar wouldn’t even rank.
Hereditary Vs. Midsommar: Which Movie Wins?
While I find Midsommar to be an experience like no other, I still think Hereditary is the superior film since it sticks to the ribs, heart, and mind so much more. So, Hereditary wins! I would love to say that a new Ari Aster film is in the cards for the 2021 new movie releases, but unfortunately, there isn’t one. But whenever a new Ari Aster movie comes out—even if it’s four hours long—I’ll be there. Won’t you?