Director: Ari Aster
Starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper
Release Date: July 3, 2019
Last summer Ari Aster had his coming-out party with Hereditary, one of the best horror films in recent memory. Striking fear in audiences with a gut-wrenching story, brisk pacing and a truly unnerving performance by Toni Collete, Hereditary put writer/director Aster into everyone’s mind as a potential master of horror. With this level of success, Aster is given the opportunity to solidify himself as one of the hottest filmmakers to watch with Midsommar.
Taking place in a small cult-like community in Sweden, a group of college friends take a trip to their friends’ hometown for a cultural and drug-induced experience they are unable to get in America. During their “trip,” the true intentions of this seemingly peaceful community are revealed as an inescapable nightmare of sacrifice and euthanasia.
Aster takes some risks with Midsommar, one being a longer runtime and a slow pace. Still, the visuals and world-building alone are able to keep you engaged. The community is small but is vast in mythology. Little by little more is revealed about this cult, keeping you curious to learn more while you’re disturbed about each unsettling detail.
Visually, it is unlike anything I’ve seen before, especially in a horror film. The majority of the story takes place during daylight as this town only gets dark for a few hours at night. The whites are blown out, making you feel like you’d be better off wearing sunglasses, as some details are lost in the blinding sunlight. This and the mushroom trips our characters regularly take make for a disorienting experience.
Gore. The detail that went into the gore could only have been done by a true psychopath. It’s the kind of disturbing imagery that will make you put your popcorn down for the remainder of the runtime. If the images weren’t so disturbing, this would be up for an Academy Award but I don’t think they’ll recognize the realism of heads exploding or what lungs look like outside of the body … still breathing.
There’s an element of comedy woven into the story, Will Poulter plays the dofus who has no filter or manners toward the culture of this cult. His character is the most “American.” He’s the guy some of us will live through as he makes wise cracks, offensive jokes, and looks to get high and have a good time with the local women. The other obvious sign of comedy is in the absurdism of locals’ rituals and beliefs. Without a doubt this is a disturbing horror film, but it also has some of the funniest scenes you’ll see this year.
With Midsommar, it’s clear Ari Aster is in total control of his craft. He has shown he can deliver on a psychologically disturbing film that will have you question the morality of some of our characters while taking you on a daydream acid trip through daylight hell. His style is evident throughout and his writing is something only someone with some deep issues could have conjured up.