I have been eagerly anticipating seeing this movie, and finally got the chance today. There was a thunderstorm, and I was the only soul in theater. It was a perfect condition to see the follow up horror movie by writer and director Ari Aster. His first film, Hereditary (2018) impressed me very much and was original, creative and fresh. I was expecting something similar in Midsommar.
He did not disappoint.
Without giving any spoilers, all I can really say is that this movie is a horror film, but it is not the traditional type of horror film you may be accustomed to seeing (Insidious, The Grudge, Sinister, etc…) If you love those movies and prefer that visceral, action-packed type of horror, this movie may not be for you. It is slow building, subtle (for the most part!) and lacks the conventions, pacing and style of the traditional horror film. Having said all that, it will challenge you, get you asking questions…and it will leave you emotionally bruised.
Midsommar follows a young couple on the verge of a breakup. The woman (played by actress Florence Pugh) has recently dealt with traumatic family events, and she decides to travel with her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) and his buddies to Sweden. Their plan is to stay on a commune and enjoy the traditional midsummer festival being held there. After their arrival, they discover the bizarre and dark rituals in this pagan community. The movie follows the American group as they navigate the strange world they entered into.
Now that I have had several days to digest this movie…I liked it. I think I preferred writer/director Ari Aster’s first movie “Hereditary” better, but there is a lot to admire and marvel at in this movie. On the flip side, I can’t remember the last time I felt so disturbed in a movie. As I mentioned, it is emotionally and psychologically disturbing and exhausting, and from the very opening scene until the screen fades to black, you are never comfortable or at ease. The director perfectly controls his audience by keeping them constantly stressed and uneasy.
I was impressed with the acting in this movie, and I found it to be very natural and understated. You won’t see any big stars in this movie, and that alone adds to the believability and subtle nature of the film. As much as I enjoyed the acting, the role of the lead protagonist Dani (Florence Pugh) was particularly impressive. This character goes through hell and back in this movie, and she encounters a rollercoaster of emotions and strange new situations. Pugh did an amazing job of keeping her character believable and honest without emoting or taking it too far…which would have been very easy considering everything her character goes through and encounters.
The most impressive part of this film is the technical elements, as showcased in the screenshot above. From the opening sequence, I was floored by the sound design, which is right on par with “Hereditary.” The light design, costume design and cinematography are exquisite, and even if you pay no mind to the storyline, it is beautiful and inspiring in and of itself. I would not be surprised if there’s a few awards on the horizon for the technical team.
The storyline, although unique, seemed to have a few holes for me. Every story needs solid dramatic structure to play seamlessly, but there are a few gaps in this one. The opening sequence is so shocking and powerful, yet it is never addressed again in the movie. The protagonist deals with the fallout the entire movie, yes, but you want such seemingly crucial events that you dedicate the entire exposition to them to be resolved, or at least acknowledged. The director decides to let many details go. While I am a huge fan of films that allow the audience to fill in the gaps and make their own decisions instead of hand holding through the finale, there are many unanswered questions in this one.
But then again, life is the same way.
This movie will keep you thinking about it for long time to come, and it will imbed itself inside your mind, whether you like the film or not. If the purpose of art is to illicit some sort of reaction from us, this movie succeeds admirably. It is a fresh and unique take on the genre, and it will leave you questioning the nature of true horror.