Beau is afraid midsommar hereditary

While the A24 horror movie Beau Is Afraid looks surreal, director Ari Aster’s latest brings back Hereditary and Midsommar’s most potent theme.

While Beau Is Afraid may look like a major departure for Hereditary director Ari Aster, the latest A24 horror movie does have one central theme in common with his first hit and Midsommar. Director Ari Aster’s work is laden with symbolism and dense imagery, and a handful of recurring themes crop up between Hereditary, Midsommar, and his earlier short films. For example, both Hereditary and Midsommar are concerned with intergenerational trauma, while Aster’s notorious short film The Strange Thing About the Johnsons and his later short Munchausen touch on this theme via blackly comic psychological horror.


However, Aster’s next outing looks like a departure for the helmer. While Midsommar had some ridiculous elements, Beau Is Afraid seems to be an outright surreal odyssey. The long-awaited third feature from the acclaimed director will see Aster take the familiar sub-genre of psychological horror in an entirely new direction this time. While Hereditary and Midsommar depicted their heroes slowly succumbing to mental instability, by the looks of Beau Is Afraid’s trailer, the hero starts his journey already deeply unstable. Despite a major aesthetic shift, though, Aster’s upcoming Beau Is Afraid will still return to one of his major thematic preoccupations.

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How Beau Is Afraid Addresses Mental Illness Fears

Joaquin Phoenix in Beau is Afraid trailer 

Like Hereditary and (to a lesser extent) Midsommar, Beau Is Afraid’s trailer touches on the fear of inheriting mental illness from one’s family history. The first moments of Beau Is Afraid’s trailer see the hero’s mother apologize for the awful things that “your father passed down to you.” Joaquin Phoenix’s character is a harried, perpetually scared figure, who Beau Is Afraid’s synopsis calls “an extremely anxious man” who has a “fraught relationship with his overbearing mother and never knew his father.” While Hereditary took inspiration from Rosemary’s Baby, it is clear from this synopsis and Beau Is Afraid’s trailer that Aster is not finished with the theme of inherited trauma and subsequent mental breakdown.

Beau Is Afraid Can Tie Together Hereditary and Midsommar

Beau is Afraid Poster

While Hereditary explored how hereditary illness can shape one’s view of their life, Midsommar was a more intimate portrayal of a mental breakdown in progress. In contrast, judging by Beau is Afraid’s trailer, the new A24 horror movie looks like a blend of these two approaches. Beau’s conversation with his mother implies that, like Hereditary’s troubled heroine, he will struggle to avoid his family’s history of mental instability. However, the bizarre characters and unhinged interactions Beau has throughout the trailer imply that Aster’s upcoming Beau Is Afraid will also focus on a breakdown in progress.

Even more so than Midsommar (which used camera work and editing trickery to achieve a woozy, drugged-up perspective in its final act), Beau Is Afraid looks like the movie will see Aster capture the world through the eyes of a character in the process of losing their mind. The intentionally artificial-looking sets seen in Beau Is Afraid’s trailer, along with the uncanny makeup most characters wear, taken in tandem with the over-the-top performances, promise a nightmarish movie where the hero’s paranoia and delusion shape the narrative. If this is the case, Beau Is Afraid could marry the themes seen in Aster’s Hereditary and Midsommar and deepen the director’s analysis of this primal fear.

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