If you’re like me, every once in a while you look through YouTube for some hidden gems. Whether they’re short films from great directors or full-length features from up and comers, there are a lot of fun corners of the website to comb through. While doing my regular perusal, I happened upon “The Strange Thing About The Johnsons,” the first movie by famous horror director Ari Aster.
Warning: This film is not for younger audiences. Viewer discretion advised. Or ignore me, I’m not your mother.
Aster is well known for his collaborations with A24 on the films “Hereditary” in 2018 and “Midsommar” in 2019. “Hereditary” was his breakout into feature filmmaking, placing his posters on the dorm room of every film school student and horror fan. His follow-up truly solidified him as a horror auteur alongside peers like Jordan Peele. However, technically “Hereditary” wasn’t the beginning of his filmography.
The honor of being Ari Aster’s first movie goes to “The Strange Thing About The Johnsons,” although it’s short. Coming in at about thirty minutes, the film is about an abusive relationship in a dramatic horrifying way. Aster claims to have conceptualized the film while discussing taboo topics with his friends. He directed this as his thesis film while studying at the American Film Institute. After screening it at the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah, the film leaked online and became a hit. That’s why, to this day, you can find the movie on YouTube in full.
Exploring these shock value topics for horror’s sake is totally the director’s style. All the tricks Ari Aster would go on to use in “Hereditary” and “Midsommar” are done first in this movie. Though it is incredibly shocking, it’s also a masterclass in cinematography. Check it out!