Buckle Up for ‘Beau Is Afraid’: A Spoiler-Free Review!

Ari Aster’s latest film. Beau Is Afraid is certainly ruffling some feathers in the film community. Here are reasons to watch and what to prepare yourself for!

I saw Beau Is Afraid on opening night with my best friend, horror companion, and Midsommar lover. As a big fan of Ari Aster’s previous features, I was excited to embark on the journey of his third film, and I have to say, it does not let up for the entire three-hour runtime. Whether you like Hereditary and Midsommar, are a general horror fan, or are just looking for something new, here are reasons to watch the film (and things you might be wary of).

@_elespantaviejas_ #fyp #parati #beauisafraid #a24 #joaquinphoenix ♬ Sh Boom – The Chords

“I love Ari Aster’s films! Will I like Beau Is Afraid?”

That really depends on you! Beau Is Afraid is most definitely off the beaten path from Aster’s previous films. Although you’ll recognize Aster’s signature themes (i.e. grief and complicated relationships), this film is far from the grounded, outright terrifying portrayals in Hereditary and Midsommar. There is some scary imagery in the film, but it definitely edges closer to bizarre, absurdist, and anxiety-inducing rather than needing to sleep with the light on after watching. Moreover, the story is far from logical; get ready to be confused by large chunks and not be entirely satiated at the conclusion.

Beau Is Afraid exists in a more obviously heightened universe compared to Aster’s other work. Where the horrors of Hereditary and Midsommar seem confined to single locations, the anxiety and tension of Beau Is Afraid spreads into every corner of the world, from the comfort of your own bed to the middle of the woods. Beau (played spectacularly by Joaquin Phoenix) can’t catch a break, no matter where he ends up.

This film is also quite a bit funnier than Aster’s other films. There are plenty of lines meant to be absolutely ridiculous, many of which are also deeply uncomfortable and cringe-worthy. Our theater erupted into giggles throughout the film, even when it felt inappropriate or like we were laughing at our main character’s plight. Honestly, I would say this film is horror as its secondary category; at least to me, it feels more like a psychological black comedy first and horror second.

If you’re willing to sit through the three hours, I would give it a try. As an Aster fan, this film is my least favorite of his, but I’m not mad I watched it. It’s worth seeing just to have an opinion and a full look at Aster’s filmography as he continues to expand as a writer-director. This was his blank check film, and he’s cashing in.

“I’m a horror fan, but I haven’t seen Hereditary, or Midsommar/Ari Aster isn’t my favorite.”

As I said, your enjoyment of Aster’s previous films has little to no bearing on if you’ll like this. It’s hard to nail down an exact comparison from the horror genre, but this film definitely falls closer to experimental arthouse than anything else.

Beau Is Afraid may not hit the spot if you tend toward straightforward, traditional staples in the genre, like the Texas Chainsaw or Scream franchises. If psychological terror is your thing, you may be getting closer, but again it’s not particularly scary or consistently unnerving like Get Out (2017) or The Shining (1980). If you are a proud “elevated horror” fan, you might just like this, since there’s plenty of meaning and symbolism to dive into outside the merits of the story itself.

If I were to devise a comp for this film, I would call it Men (2022) meets I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) with a dash of uncomfortable humor from the Evil Dead franchise. To be honest, Joaquin Phoenix’s character from Signs (2002) could be in this movie, and it’d make sense. Take that as you will.

“Horror isn’t my favorite genre, but the trailer intrigued me.”

The trailer is just a hint at the chaos that’s in store. You might like this film as a non-horror fan because you have fewer expectations surrounding it. Come into this film with an open mind and appreciation for visual, nonlinear storytelling. Ari Aster is flexing every creative muscle throughout this film to create an experience, and it’s best to sit back and take it all in; try to figure it out on the car ride home.

My comp line for you would be Joker (2019) meets Uncut Gems (2019) meets Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) if the mom had not-so-great intentions. If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is. Hold on tight.

@im_not_lindsay_lohan His family gatherings must be like the attic in Hereditary or something. I hope hes a great director to work with cos damn these are weighing on me😂. #ariaster #hereditary #comedy #horrothrillers #filmmaking #filmbros #midsommar #beauisafraidmovie #beauisafraid ♬ original sound – jersey shore + more.

I would not recommend this film to the faint of heart. Get ready for three hours inside the head of an anxious man doing his best, but it doesn’t seem to be enough for anyone. Every character is over-the-top, every moment is absurd, and every one of your brain cells will be working overtime.

You can watch Beau Is Afraid exclusively in theaters now!

About the Author

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Christopher Ikonomou

Christopher Ikonomou is a 4th year at the University of California, Los Angeles pursuing Communication and Disability Studies. He has a particular interest in the entertainment industry and representation of marginalized people in film and TV. On campus, he is the Editor-in-Chief at OutWrite Newsmagazine, the oldest queer college publication in the United States, and an activist with the Disabled Student Union. He’s a horror superfan and has been featured by Buzzfeed, UCLA College, Bored Panda, and Teen Vogue for his vocal involvement in the fight for better representation of the disabled community on screen and in the genre, particularly those with Marfan syndrome like himself.