Ari Aster made a huge splash in cinema with two of the greatest horror films made in the last fifteen years. Hereditary and Midsommar. Both are brilliant films that mix classic horror tropes with art-house style. Now we come to his third film, a film that seems to be his more experimental, maybe more daring project to date. Beau is Afraid. The film starts off interesting, its atmospheres of paranoia and creeping violence laced through the narrative. But the film does not seem to be interested in restraint, and Beau is Afraid becomes too abstract and occasionally the worst sin of all… just boring. The film tries to come off as daringly transgressive with its meta-narrative asides and random explosions of cruelty. But neither really hit the viewer, the film just has no punch. The viewer starts the film with goodwill, wanting to see where the director goes, but the journey just isn't worth the voyage. One of the strengths of his previous films is that they were anchored by using the basic framework of classic horror genre tropes which allowed him to play and expand on the themes of the horror film, in Beau is Afraid the film has no real depth and kind of gets lost in its own pretensions. The unease of the film is diluted by the winks and nods the film makes to the audience.
Beau is Afraid is Ari Aster saying, look how awful life can be, what if all your paranoid thoughts were real? But it is all played as farce and an elbow to the ribs. There is no anger, no resentment, no actual emotions ever enter into it. The film would have been much better served by a more realistic tone. Compare this film to the completely unpredictable end of Enemy or the mindfuckery of The Tenant. Both films have a realistic tone where surrealism and horror lurk around the edges of the film. The acting in phenomenal. But anytime the film seems about to go somewhere challenging and interesting, it just falls back on its own wankery. It’s like the film does not know if it wants to be a horror film in the style of Polanski or Lynch, or some parody slash social commentary like Brazil or Mother!. While I do feel that the film was a brave direction for the director to go, the film itself doesn't have the courage of its own convictions. The oh-so-shocking monster in the attic, because of course there is a monster, at the end is shown to an audience tired of the abstraction of this three-hour film and the monster just lands to no effect. Beau is Afraid i will give credit for its experimental style and for its attempt at broadening of what genre films can do, but it just doesn't work. Not a horrible film just a film that is not effective. With this out of his system let's see what Ari Aster has in store for us next.