Ari Aster & The Modern Horror Flick

Abigail Jacqueline
5 min readAug 15, 2020

A review of how Midsommar & Hereditary succeed by provoking divine discomfort in their audiences

Midsommar (2019) & Hereditary (2018)

Long gone are the days of cult followings in horror movies such as Halloween or the Scream saga; modern times call for thought provoking, uncomfortable films about cults.

But how do these modern horror films pan out against the classic slasher flicks of the olden days?

An old-but-great 90s flick is a great place to start in the transition from horror films relying on jump scares and gore to the modern trance of these two Ari Aster films. Scream (1996), and the following four sequels, rely on a fear factor that once upon a time dominated the industry: the jump scare. Accompanied by appropriately timed sound effects and the right balance between shock and gore, these movies kept me hiding behind pillows as a kid and checking my closet before going to bed. The after effect of these movies were grand — movies like Mirrors (2008) kept me from even so much as looking in a mirror for fear that I might slit my own throat open while being puppet mastered by a mirror demon. An immediate fear of every relevant item — a closet, a mirror, a seemingly harmless doll (thanks Chucky..and Annabelle). The haunting of these movies, however, are quick to fade. A good night’s sleep and some daylight, or the occasional quick comedy episode after a good cliff-hanger ending and you would be good as new — no monster under my bed!

But as we enter a new age of horror, or rather indulge in the mysterious world of all things Ari Aster, a question is provoked: what is the after effect of movies that don’t rely on cheap gimmicks or jump scares, but rather force us to reconsider the way we view horror itself?

Charlie (Millie Shapiro) in Hereditary (2018)

The answer to that question is indefinite, just as the effect these movies have on the viewer. As a consumer of a wide range of horror content, I can say these movies horrify me in a vastly different way than walking at a faster pace for the shallow fear of being stalked home by Michael Myers. These movies tick a different set of boxes — the kinds of boxes that make me pause the movie mid scene and take a few deep breathes, and…