Going into Midsommar I had stupidly high expectations. Why? Because Midsommar is written and directed by Ari Aster – The genius behind what may well be my favourite horror film of a generation – Hereditary. Though this is not a sequel to Hereditary, (No matter what the marketing may make people think!), I probably won’t be able to help myself from directly comparing the two from time to time so apologies for that in advance.
Midsommar tells the story of a group of young American friends who follow their Swedish buddy Pelle back to his home town to take part in a strange traditional mid-summer festival. The majority of the film is shown from Dani’s perspective – The only female in the group and long time girlfriend of Christian, who also plays a huge role. Dani is played wonderfully by Florence Pugh, who has zero problems leading this film; her performance is truly something special as she’s able to remain a relatable and warm hearted character in what is to nobody’s surprise… A horrible, dark and twisted story. Her relationship with Christian – played by Jack Reynor – is a huge part of the movie; their relationship is on rocky grounds from the opening, and the way that Ari Aster takes us through their journey feels so true to life. It came as no surprise to me to find out that Aster himself was reportedly actually going through a big breakup of his own during the writing of Midsommar.
Horror fans don’t worry though, this is not a movie completely dedicated to a couple’s story! The plot itself mostly revolves around the group’s curiosity of this rural town’s strange traditions, and how they handle it. Everything starts off looking like it’s going to be a great once-in-a-lifetime holiday for these students, as they begin by partaking in the local tradition of getting completely off their tits on what appears to be magic mushrooms while lounging around, enjoying the long summer days… Though it isn’t long before these glorious drug-filled summer days turn into a horrific nightmare, and this is where Midsommar really begins to shine…
Much like Hereditary, Midsommar takes the viewer way out of their comfort zone with gruesome cinematography and a soundtrack that feels like an all out assault on the senses in the best way possible. I find it really cool just how horrifically dark the scenes are in this, given that they are not dark at all… Literally the entire movie plays out in the bright summer daylight! This works as it means the more grotesque moments aren’t hidden away in the dark, they’re there in all their disgusting glory for all to see clearly. It’s one of many ways that the film will play with your expectations. If you’re a fan of classic modern horrors such as The Conjuring or IT and you’re going into Midsommar expecting something similar, then prepare to be shocked. Whereas Hereditary had the feeling of a classic horror but done in a new and unconventional way, Midsommar feels like it goes another step further away from horror tropes such as jumpscares (In fact I don’t think there’s a single jumpscare here), and leans way more into the weird discomforting side of things.
This isn’t always a good thing, though, in an effort to try make their audience feel as uncomfortable as possible, the film makers often accidently crossed the line in to unwanted humour. There were a couple of times during my screening when a few people including myself ended up chuckling or laughing at scenes that I’m sure were intended to be scary or creepy. I may be wrong here, maybe the intention was to gain some laughs amongst the horror, but for me it took me out of the experience. Another issue I had was that the movie felt a little too long, especially during the second act… Although I was invested in the story, I would often feel that a scene was going nowhere, or maybe outstaying its welcome. These pacing issues weren’t enough to really put a dampener on things for me personally, but I can see other people getting quite bored.
Coming out of Midsommar I felt as if I’d been on a bad trip, and in the days following I’m still coming down from it. I want to go and see it again as it was my second viewing of Hereditary that really solidified it as one of my all time favourites, and this may very well have the same effect. This is undoubtedly an experience different to anything else in cinema, and for that alone it’s worth your time… Though does it live up to the high expectations set by Hereditary? I don’t really have the answer. This is the hardest review I’ve ever done; I could see good reasons for people giving this a score anywhere between a 6 and a 10. I think this feeling of confusion and being unnerved is exactly what Ari Aster wants people to feel, so with that in mind I’m going on the slightly higher end of the scale and go with an 8… But this is really a film you need to see and judge for yourself.