The idea of going to a remote village in Sweden for a midsummer festival seems fun. Imagine two weeks of paradise with eternal sunshine, beautiful people, and all the food and drinks you want. Now imagine Hereditary’s Ari Aster wrote and directed your trip. Your perfect paradise would quickly turn into a nightmare as things go from unsettling to wildly disturbing.
That horrific trip is Midsommar, the latest from A24 and horror visionary Ari Aster. The story follows Dani (Florence Pugh) and her boyfriend Christian (KIN’s Jack Reynor), a young couple trapped in a rocky relationship. After a tragedy in Dani’s life, she shoehorns her way into Christian and his friend’s trip to Sweden. The group is invited by Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) to visit his village in Sweden for a festival that happens every 90 years. During the trip, while the couple is working through their issues, Josh (William Jackson Harper) is working on his dissertation on the village and Mark (Will Poulter) has his sights set on all the Swedish women.
As the week unfolds, Dani and her friends find themselves unwilling participants in the festival’s rituals.
Midsommar is a film about grief and relationships that turns into Wicker Man. It’s best described as a Hipster Wicker Man that’s full of humor and horror. From the opening moments, there’s a sense of dread that’s hanging over Dani and her friends before they get on the flight. If you’ve seen the trailer or poster, you know terrible things are in store for Dani and her friends. The marketing for Midsommar gave us the answers to the test. What makes the film frightening is every creepy moment that leads up to it.
Florence Pugh is great as a fish out of water that stumbles into a nightmare. Pugh is good in scenes when Dani is processing her grief, but even better when Dani is trying to put the puzzle pieces together while dealing with her grief and disastrous relationship. Pugh gives a breakout performance that will be in the conversation during award season.
There are moments in every scary movie when the moviegoer says, “I would’ve left after ____”. Midsommar has a moment like this that’s so glaring, it’s bizarre anyone in the group decided to stay. Each member of Dani’s group has their own selfish reasons for being there, the idea of leaving never crosses their minds.
The most relatable character is Connie (Ellora Torchia). She doesn’t have a ton of screen time but she asks all the relevant questions and has appropriate reactions to the rituals. With the other outsiders dealing with personal issues, Connie is a stand-in for the audience. Every horror movie needs a Connie aka a common sense person to remind the audience how bizarre everything is.
Midsommar is more unsettling than scary. If you have a problem with graphic violence, this may not be the film or you. There’s a lot of extreme violence and the camera doesn’t shy away from it. The matter-of-fact way the villagers act during these scenes is what makes them so jarring. You may have to watch a few scenes through your fingers.
Ari Aster avoided the sophomore slump with Midsommar. It’s a beautifully shot film about a couple breaking up on their dream vacation that blends into The Green Inferno. It may not be extreme horror fans are hoping for, but Aster delivers a film with a slow burn that packs a punch at the end.