The Brilliance of Ari Aster

One of the reasons why I support Ari Aster is because he knows how to connect with his audience through long-used techniques in a way that feels fresh. Before embarking on the filmmaking industry, Aster aspired to be a writer. However, while attending graduate school, Aster’s expanded his horizons and broke into the filmmaking industry. The art behind Hereditary, Aster’s first full-length film, is an indie movie that shook the filmmaking industry. Aside from the originality, gore, and breathtaking suspense, the cinematographic elements of Hereditary are why Ari Aster is one of the most notable psychological thriller directors today.

Hereditary (2018) – Best Horror Scene

In the scene above, Annie Graham, played by Toni Collette, attempts to prove to her husband, Steve Graham, played by Gabriel Byrne, that their family has been cursed by a pagan cult. Reviewing this scene without sound emphasizes key cinematic details. Initially, Annie and Steve are captured from a one-point perspective. Annie assumes a negative position, while Steve assumes a positive position through the camera lens. As the scene progresses, the shot stays the same, and the pair gradually step closer together. Following this, Annie steps into an open space with Steve following after her. As Annie pleads with her husband to believe her, the couple stands face to face in the center of the camera. The scene abruptly shifts to a wide shot, displaying Steve simultaneously catching on fire and Annie starring in shock. Finally, the scene ends with a close-up shot of Annie’s face. Initially quacking and shaking with fear, the scene ends with Annie, centered in the frame, looking quite possessed and straight-faced. To some viewers, this silent scene may puzzle viewers.

However, Roger Ebert would most likely be able to interpret and eloquently describe this scene. Ebert supported the notion that the position of characters in a frame conveys the underlying message to the audience. In this instance, throughout Hereditary, Annie’s mental health declined while Steve’s concern for her grew, even threatening to call the police on her before his death by fire. In the opening shot, Steve’s position dominates Annies. This positive, dominant position symbolizes Steve’s growing concern for Annie. Annie’s initial negative position in the frame encapsulates her deteriorating mental state and urgency for her husband to listen and believe her belief that their family is cursed. Once the couple is centered, they are equal in the frame. Then, Steve catching on fire, followed by a wide shot, is a tool that adds suspense to the scene. In closing, the close-up shot of Annie’s drastic emotional state captures a grief-stricken wife, overtaken by a demonic possession moments after her husband takes his last breath.

Analyzing the audio in this scene without viewing it is an unremarkable auditory experience. The audio starts with low horns. A violin periodically plays, accompanied by a subtle rumbling sound. Annie says, “I need you to trust me, Steve”. A panting, desperate Annie cries. All the while Steve is silent. The audio gets louder as Annie cries and hyperventilates. Then, Steve speaks for the first time in this scene. Steve tells Annie that he does not want to be with her anymore, calls her sick, and assures her that he will call the police. Suddenly, the violins playing in the background reach a screeching volume while Steve groans in pain from the fire covering his entire body. Ultimately, the audio creates tension that climaxes once Steve catches on fire. Although the fire is audible, the seemingly overbearing strokes of the violin overshadow Steve’s blood-curdling howling.


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