Home » Ari Aster’s weird follow-up to Midsommar gets a weird release

Ari Aster’s weird follow-up to Midsommar gets a weird release

by Stewart Cole

Aris Aster is a very strange director. Not just about wacky, fantastical popcorn horror movies, but also about the way these weird movies become wildly popular. Both his previous films, Midsommar and Hereditary, are excellent, terrifying, thoughtful horror films about trauma and grief. They’re both funny, in their own twisted, dark ways. Both have created a lasting impression with teenagers and 20-somethings online thanks to their idiosyncratic marketing, intense shocks and imagery, and general meme skill.

Now, production company A24 (which was behind Aster’s two previous films) is hoping to generate the same excitement for Aster’s new, weirder film, Bo is Scaredgiving it an extremely weird release schedule designed primarily to attract fans and dominate social media.

Bo is Scared follows Bo (Joaquin Phoenix), less of an ordinary guy and more of a tightly wound ball of stress in every moment of his life, as he travels to visit his mother. Along the way, he encounters all kinds of oddities, including an apocalyptic town, a traveling theater troupe, mildly disturbed children, and Nathan Lane. Unlike Astaire’s other two films, Bo is Scared it’s more obviously a comedy, though it’s been put through a filter of absurdist tragedy with a bit of horror mixed in for good measure.

Photo: Takashi Seida/A24

It’s also a distinctly weird film, in the most complementary way possible. While it has bits and pieces of familiar movies, it combines them so aggressively and constantly that it defies comparison to anything else every time. Instead, Fan more like dozens of directors, films, books, plays and writers who have influenced Astaire in his life. And with a film this weird and varied, it’s only fitting that its theatrical release is just as weird.

To make this happen, A24 kicked off with a surprise, simulcasting the film’s world premiere at Alamo Drafthouse theaters in several different cities across the United States. Attendees thought they were appearing at a screening of it Midsommar Director’s cut (still Aster’s best film), with a live Q&A from the director at the end. Instead, once they sat down, they were told they were watching its premiere Bo is Scared — though the live Q&A happened, hosted by Emma Stone and simulcast in theaters across the country.

This kind of early screening sometimes comes with a strict social media embargo, but in this case, attendees were allowed to post their reactions to the film the minute it ended. Which means the film immediately generated positive word of mouth from some of Aster’s biggest fans — critics and general audiences.

Photo: Takashi Seida/A24

The actual review embargo for Fan was set for 10 p.m. EDT on the evening of Monday, April 10 — an unusual time for embargoes, given that they are usually set for the morning or afternoon. This embargo also comes just days before the film is released for a limited screening in just a few theaters in New York and Los Angeles. In most cities, critics won’t even be able to see the film until the IMAX public preview on April 18. After that, the film will finally get a more conventional release, hitting theaters nationwide on April 21st.

This odd schedule, and the repeated and escalating social media outbursts that A24 apparently hopes each new wave of release will generate, are meant to begin a slow build of anticipation and momentum for the film. If things go in the studio’s favor, then movie fans will be in for a treat Bo is Scared for more than three weeks before they have a chance to see the film for themselves. This strategy feels like an artificial attempt to create the kind of success Aster has Hereditary done. After a solid theatrical run ($44 million domestically), Hereditary It really took off when it hit Netflix and people showed it to their friends for the thrill of giving someone else a massive shock.

Photo: Takashi Seida/A24

But it’s not just the impressive backlog of Aster’s previous films that A24 can hope to create a hit with Fan; it is also the recent history of theatrical releases. The horror movies of 2022 Smile, Barbarianand Terrifier 2 All saw their box office returns slowly build to impressive heights over the weeks, rather than experiencing the opening weekend boom common to bigger releases. Even blockbuster animated movies like Puss in Boots: The Last Wish was slow to find an audience in today’s cinematic environment. Meanwhile, this year, Skinamarink leaked onto the Internet, creating a big TikTok buzz ahead of its theatrical release, convincing people to show up in droves for a very specific kind of slow-burn horror movie.

There is no guarantee for this Bo is Scared it will necessarily find an equally large and devoted audience or that it will truly develop into a word-of-mouth success. But at the very least, it’s hard to blame A24 for experimenting with the traffic pattern in such a strange film. I was at the first screening of the film in Brooklyn, the one where Astaire actually appeared live and in the flesh. His new film is fun, entertaining, weird and messy, even if it doesn’t quite gel in the end. Fans of horror, cinematic weirdness, and Aster’s other work should check it out once this is an option. For all these reasons, it’s also a difficult film to sell, so why wouldn’t A24 make the mistake of building it slowly, with Aster’s most ardent fans leading the way?

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