The film A24 doesn't want you to see
Ari Aster is in the process of cultivating his own unique form of psychological horror. Already under his belt are works such as the colorfully disturbing Midsommar, and the familial trauma of Hereditary. His newest film, Beau Is Afraid, came to theatres in April of this year, but what if I were to tell you there was a cut of the film A24 did not want you to see?
In 2011, the same year as that saw the release of his American Film Institute thesis film and viral short The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, Aster dropped another short film with Beau. From just the surface you are able to glean an early blueprint for his then- future film.
It stars the late journeyman actor Billy Mayo, who also portrays the father in Aster's unfathomably taboo thesis film. With his role as Beau he brings to it a similar distanced neurosis. He lives as a man traumatized and paranoid, of what, however, he have to piece together.
The crisp 6 minute and 22 second short plays out like a shot for shot reference work for the director's future film. "Beau, Cannot, Will Not, Should Not, Sleep", the title card reads. Hurried moments open the scene through Beau's apartment as he packs his suitcase in haste.
Hurry gives way to panic. The world outside his apartment door is engulfed in fear with his fractured sense of reality. The absurd threats of his neighbors and strangers alike are manic projections visualized for an audience to witness. With an unreliable narrator we are left to wonder what is real and what is a manic projection. And just like in Beau Is Afraid, the eerie nurturement of their mother is the one emotional touchstone for them.
For any Ari Aster fan it is utterly dope to see his first draft for a project he would later dust off three presidential terms later. What is not dope, however, is the lengths A24 has gone to scrub away any trace of the short film.
Although I must first preface this with the question, who doesn't enjoy the productions of A24? To many when they see the logo flash across their screen it imbues them with a feeling of quality, a seal of approval. You are safe in their hands, and rightfully so, as the New York based production house has made strides on bringing independent, auteur-driven film projects to mainstream audiences.
Upon unearthing this old short from the bottom of Ari Aster's IMBD, I could not find any trace of it to view officially. If it were not for a few Reddit sleuths I wouldn't be reporting the contents of this film to you at all. Understandable from both the distributor and the artist's perspective why you would want to stow away this project in the garage underneath the tarp. We all have something we've made in the past that we may feel like we've made growth since or could do better, and in this case you would want all eyes on the release of Beau Is Afraid.
But I didn't know how far they would go to make Beau disappear. After writing a short piece for the Instagram film blog directorpicks, the admin of the page received a copyright strike through email and the post was subsequently taken down. No videos or content was shared, just a single still tight shot of lead Billy Mayo and a few paragraphs explaining the film's existence. But it was not to be.
Beau Is Afraid is a frenzied journey through the paranoid psyche, and its spiritual predecessor may hold some keys for the enigmatic screenplay in its 6 minute and 22 second runtime. Its just too bad that according to A24, Beau never existed.