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'Beau Is Afraid' is a Kafkaesque Odyssey

Beau Is Afraid is a dark horror comedy drama starring Joaquin Phoenix from the mind of Ari Aster, a horror aficionado turned director, who's become synonymous with horror. His latest horror injects a welcome dose of comedy, a mind-bending film filled with enough symbolism, riddles and clues to make your head spin.

Ari Aster has made a name for himself as a writer-director on the back of iconic horror films, Hereditary and Midsommar. The grand cult matriarchy of Hereditary conjured echoes of Rosemary's Baby and The Shining as the auteur aimed for the realm of horror masterpiece. While a final flutter almost derailed this edgy and pitch black horror, Toni Collette's brilliant performance and the film's haunting aftereffects are well-documented. Aster also pushed the limits with Midsommar, eliciting a strong performance from Florence Pugh in a devastating cult folk horror to rival The Wicker Man. Presenting the horror in broad daylight, the eerie undertow is still felt, even if the cold light of day presentation may have been a double-edged sword.

The director has ascribed serious impact value, enough to get people talking and make virtually any one of his films an event. This can be said for his latest offering Beau Is Afraid, starring Joaquin Phoenix. Teaming up with Phoenix, whose recent success with Joker has reinvigorated his acting career with a well-deserved and long overdue Oscar for Best Actor, the two have a similar bent. Fiercely committed to delivering excellent films, there's a twinge of irony to the sentiment of the title considering just how fearless these filmmakers are.

Aster's well-versed in horror, making his detour into the avenue of horror comedy curious rather than unusual. Going for edge over humour in Hereditary and Midsommar, his latest movie must serve as a welcome refresh for the film-maker and fans in the insane dark comedy, Beau is Afraid. A Kafkaesque odyssey, our guide is mild-mannered yet anxiety-riddled Beau, who must face his darkest fears on his homeward bound escapade following his mother's untimely death.

Based on the poster, one has to imagine there could be some cross-over with Alex Garland's eerie horror thriller, Men and not far from Charlie Kaufman's I'm Thinking of Ending Things. Both visionary film-makers are compelled by similar unsettling visually-charged stories and are comfortable to confront abstract elements without feeling the need to over-explain. Garland and Kaufman's influences may be slightly more difficult to distinguish than Aster's horror inspirations but all three represent some of the most exciting film-making happening in what's become a heavily-throttled and safe bet Hollywood.

Beau Is Afraid

Having starred in Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice, Phoenix is no stranger to strange. He may not have had the opportunity to star in a David Lynch film but his appetite for dark, weird and wonderful makes him a strong choice for directors with a penchant for the darker side of humanity. This explains his affinity for Ari Aster's work and makes their partnership exciting, even if Beau Is Afraid's trailer trades in a bizarre sort of artifice.

Having so much trust in both Aster and Phoenix, their combination is almost enough to bank on in Beau Is Afraid, whatever your thoughts on the outlandishly surreal trailer. This intoxicating treat features the acting talents of Nathan Lane, Amy Ryan and Parker Posey. A cult-friendly ensemble, Lane's involvement automatically spells funny if his filmography is anything to go by. However, under Aster's direction one has to wonder just how warped the film's sense of humour is going to get. One audience member likened the cinema experience and its haunting after-effects as being "punched in the face". So as much as you'd like to prepare for Beau Is Afraid, which releases in cinemas on 5 May, your efforts may be futile.

Book tickets now: Ster-Kinekor / Nu Metro