Perhaps one of the most sadistic and darkly funny relationship movies ever made is Ari Aster’s (Hereditary) second feature film titled Midsommar, which is sure to leave you in a state of shock as the credits roll. If Hereditary tackled the paranormal within a generational family of horror, then Midsommar takes you on a chaotic rollercoaster of a couple’s vacation overseas. This is nothing short of spectacular on every level and just like Aster’s previous film, there are many things to take notice in the background due to his explicit attention to detail and filmmaking. Ari definitely knocked it out of the park once again.
One thing you must know when going into Midsommar is that you shouldn’t expect something as scary as Hereditary. That film was a slow burn of a demonic value that had otherworldly entities at play there. That’s not Midsommar. This particular movie feels very realistic and even takes place during the light of day, but continue to make those hairs on your body stand on end. It’s not the horror you’d expect when someone got is standing behind you with a snarl on their face, but rather some actions that are completely out of the ordinary, primal, and wholly sadistic that you put yourself in this very real situation and can’t imagine how you’d escape. With Aster’s storytelling, camera movements, and attention to the most minute details, we have yet another perfect horror film.
But first, let’s talk about this setup. Like Hereditary, Aster can perfectly capture extreme sorrow and sadness. Like we saw with Toni Collete’s character in Hereditary when she broke down over the death of her daughter, we see something very similar with our main character named Dani (Florence Pugh from Fighting With My Family), as she is grieving the loss over someone close to her. Meanwhile her grad-school boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor from Kin) and his group of friends who are all preparing their thesis for graduation all think he should dump Dani, due to her state-of-mind. While Christian doesn’t necessarily agree with them, he doesn’t disagree with them either.
Christian and his guy friends decide on a fun trip to Sweden to visit the hometown of one of their friends, which a couple of them seem to take an interest in his culture. Christian invites Dani much to the chagrin of his fellow schoolmates. When everyone arrives, it’s a perfect utopia of something you would hope to be a part of if you attended 1969’s Woodstock, complete with music, flower white dresses, and beautiful scenery. You can also add to that some strong hallucinogens. From there, these US students take part in this village’s customs, meals, and other work around the beautiful compound.
Now one of the characters that we follow is named Mark (Will Poulter from Son of Rambow and We’re The Millers), who is our conduit to what we the audience is actually thinking. He’s of course the comic relief, but will subtly talk out loud about what he’s witnessing, which is to go along with our inner thoughts. At one point he says something about taking a wrong turn at Waco. It’s great lines like that, where I felt like I was a part of this trip, because I was thinking the same thing.
Stranger and more bizarre rituals start to come to the forefront and people turn up missing. I’m not talking about dance lessons either here. And to quote Wes Anderson, we’re talking about throwing through the guy’s windshield as we’ve seen from scenes in Hereditary. There is no shying away from the barbarous events that unfold here that will once again leave your jaw rubbing over the dirty floor. It’s unbelievably good.
Aster also tells this incredible journey with only giving you little crumbs as you go along. He never reveals (like Hereditary), where it’s headed until the final act, where you’ll be blown away. It always leaves you guessing as to what can happen next, but also delivering some excellent background information that will keep you thinking about it later on on this crazy universe he’s created, such as with these Swedish people’s rituals. His camerawork is still in tact with a Kubrick-like slow tracking shot that never allows you to escape a tense situation. There isn’t any fast edits that allows you to look away.
The acting here is excellent as well, but the real true spotlight is on Florence Pugh, who like in Fighting With My Family showed her acting chops, but here, she is put through the ringer like Toni Collette in Hereditary or even Shelley Duval in The Shining. Aster has a way of getting these brilliant and nuanced performances from his main player that I just always want more. Overall though, this film underlines a bad relationship that should have ended long ago and is perhaps one of the most extreme breakup films ever made.