Review - 'Midsommar'
Jaws did to beaches what Misommar does for me ever thinking about visiting Sweden. I’m joking to a degree, but there’s a modicum of truth to that statement. As illogical as it is for me to fear going to what I’ve heard is a beautiful and pleasant country, this film is so adept at its brand of horror that it makes me paranoid nonetheless. This is also why Midsommar is one of my favorite films of this year.
The movie follows Dani (Florence Pugh), her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends as they travel to Sweden to take part in Mid-summer festivities after Dani suffers a highly traumatic experience. Unbeknownst to them, they are being groomed to be the subjects of an old pagan ritual.
Jordan Peele and now Ari Aster really do seem to be the new titans of horror. Could I ask for a better 1-2-3-4 punch than Get Out, Hereditary, Us and now: Midsommar? I mean I guess I could, but this is about as good as it gets. Midsommar is an absolutely spell-binding descent into sun-drenched hell the likes of which I have never seen, well, at least not done quite in this way. Yes, there are certainly parallels one could draw between this and The Wickerman, but Midsommar has more on its mind and Ari Aster knows how to play his horror fans like a violin, see-sawing between dark, dark comedy and truly grotesque, yet beautiful imagery.
The great thing about Aster is that he can balance style and substance. I’ve seen directors fall more heavily into one side or the other on countless occasions, and their movies have come up short as a result. This and his previous film, Hereditary, demonstrate that when you achieve the right balance, your film sings, and boy does Midsommar have one of the most deliciously blood-curdling death chants I have ever heard. I sat in my seat utterly transfixed throughout the lengthy two-hour-and-thirty-minute run-time and not once did it feel slow or plodding. The pacing and the manner in which new information is doled out consistently kept me on the hook for whatever was going to happen next, and I was never disappointed by each shocking new reveal.
I also must commend the filmmakers for having the guts to make a horror film that primarily takes place during daylight hours. I can’t think of too many other movies in the genre that even dare attempt such a feat. Having all of the horrors on full display instead of hiding them in the shadows really separates this film from the rest of the pack. This is further evidence of Aster’s confidence behind the camera, he knows that he doesn’t need smoke-and-mirrors to get under his audience’s skin. All it takes is an intriguing, and progressively more disturbing mystery, that of which the layers are pulled back one-by-one, slowly revealing a increasingly rotted core.
Though Midsommar is indeed a top-tier horror film, it is still not without its faults. The movie is predictable in the sense that you know, more-or-less, how it’s all going to end from the moment the group of friends board the plane to Sweden. I won’t spoil anything, but pretty much from the start I knew who the bad guys were. Despite the predictability, the movie takes an unexpected and meandering path to get to its destination, and that path was filled with surprises that I most certainly did not expect. Sometimes it’s okay if your film is predictable, so long as the journey is still entertaining and thought-provoking, which is most assuredly the case here.
The performances in Midsommar, while not quite on the level of Toni Collette’s in Hereditary, are still pretty excellent across the board, with a special shout-out to Florence Pugh, who truly shines here. She portrays grief and confusion authentically and never breaks character as the world collapses around her. Jack Reynor, who plays her boyfriend, Christian, is also good, though I found his character to be a little one-note. Still, he really pulls out all of the stops in the final act of the film. Also notable are William Jackson Harper and Will Poulter, who play Christian’s friends, even if they end up falling into typical horror character molds.
The cinematography is also breathtaking. Pawel Pogorzelski knows exactly where to be to achieve the needed reaction, whether it be through disorienting angles and camera movements that transmit a feeling of a drugged stupor, or long, lingering shots that aren’t afraid to capture the most horrifying of images. In addition to the cinematography, the score by The Haxan Cloak, which is made up primarily of majestic, almost jubilant orchestrations mingled with off-putting chants and wails, fits the unsettling tone of Midsommar to a tee.
Midsommar is a fascinating and stomach-turning film that continues to prove that the horror genre is having one hell of a renaissance. Ari Aster and the rest of the crew have crafted another nightmare for the ages, only this one takes place in broad daylight.