What is an Ari Aster Movie, Exactly?

The Hereditary director is venturing into new territory (again).

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 06: Producer Ari Aster speaks at the A24 Special Screening of DRE...
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Few filmmakers have emerged over the past few years and earned as much attention and acclaim as Ari Aster. The writer-director took the arthouse world by storm when his feature debut, Hereditary, hit theaters in 2018. Since then, he's released 2019's Midsommar, a fittingly surreal horror follow-up to Hereditary, and 2023's Beau is Afraid, a three-hour nightmare comedy about a loser trapped in a neverending cycle of anxiety, abuse, and humiliation.

The latter proved unsurprisingly divisive when it was released last year, but not so much that Aster has had to wait very long to start working on his fourth feature. The new film, titled Eddington, boasts an impressive cast of some of the internet's favorite actors and started filming this week. Little is known about the film right now, other than that it's a "contemporary western" that will reportedly follow a "small-town New Mexico sheriff with higher aspirations.”

It’s set to mark yet another genre-hop for Aster and should, at the very least, offer a different narrative and aesthetic experience than any of his past films. That doesn't, however, mean it'll be completely different from Aster's first three feature efforts.

Our first, behind-the-scenes look at Ari Aster’s next film has been revealed.


A24's Eddington announcement came with a photo of its film slate taken in the middle of a barren desert as well as a confirmation of its key cast members: Joaquin Phoenix, Pedro Pascal, Emma Stone, Luke Grimes, Austin Butler, Deirdre O'Connell, Clifton Collins Jr., and Micheal Ward. The cast is easily Aster's most star-studded to date, and the behind-the-scenes photo that was shared for it confirms that the film won't shy away from the kind of desert vistas that have long been associated with the western genre. But what kind of a western will Eddington be, exactly?

The film's "contemporary western" description suggests that it'll be set during the present day, unlike most movie westerns. That further suggests that, like he's done with Midsommar and Beau is Afraid, Aster is going to present viewers with a unique cinematic world — one that potentially transposes classic western tropes and archetypes onto our seemingly incongruous modern reality. On the one hand, that may come as a surprise to fans of Aster's first two films. It would, however, be a fitting next step for Aster to take after Beau is Afraid, which is set in a heightened version of our real world that feels alternately like a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon and a waking nightmare.

As for its vague plot synopsis, there's not much to be gleaned from a story about a sheriff with "higher aspirations." That said, it's worth noting that none of Aster's previous movies have focused on particularly ambitious characters. His previous protagonists haven't been driven by anything other than their shared desire to escape the traps they find themselves stuck in. His first three films have, in that sense, all adopted a similar, horror-esque structure by following their characters as they try to break free from similarly nightmarish situations to (spoiler alert) no avail.

It's unclear if Eddington will continue that trend. Even if its story takes a different path, though, there's still a likelihood that it'll be at least a little scary. All of Aster's films have been that up to this point, and they've proven that he is adept at making a person's seemingly normal life look and feel surreal, dangerous, and claustrophobic in ways that are often viscerally upsetting. There's no reason to believe right now that Eddington — even with its presumably vast western setting — will be any different.

Eddington will reunite director Ari Aster with his Beau is Afraid star, Joaquin Phoenix.

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If Ari Aster's existing filmography is any indication, it seems safe to assume that Eddington will be, among other things, visually controlled to an almost suffocating degree, horrifying, and funny. Exactly how scary and comedic it ends up being is something we'll have to wait to see, but Aster has proven himself as a director who isn't afraid to both subvert an audience's genre expectations and trap his characters in stories in which they have very little actual control. What does all of that mean when it comes to Eddington? There's no way of knowing for sure right now, but it already seems primed to be unlike any western viewers have seen before.

Ari Aster’s Eddington does not yet have a release date.

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