Midsommar – 3 out of 5
I checked out Ari Aster’s previous horror film; Hereditary (which you can read my review of here), and was absolutely blown away by how terrifying and how amazingly constructed it was. So rarely have I seen a horror film be both dramatically moving and frightening at the same time but Aster did it (well, I guess I kinda saved you a click when it came to reading my review of it). Due to this, when his next film Midsommar came out I was very intrigued. I didn’t get a chance to see this in the theater but recently was able to sit down in my home and check it out. While it isn’t Hereditary, it was a bit intriguing.
|Hmmm, I see my next Casual Friday outfit for the office.|
Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh) is overcome with grief after her sister fills her home with carbon monoxide and commits suicide and kills her parents. She finds little comfort from her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) as he is barely committed to their relationship—even going as far as not telling her that he was planning a trip with his friends Mark (Will Poulter), Josh (William Jackson Harper) and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) to Sweden. There they plan on attending a midsummer celebration in Pelle’s childhood home village. Reluctantly, Christian invites Dani and she agrees to go. Everything seems normal and downright folksy when they arrive but they soon learn that the celebration is harboring some very dark and very deadly secrets.
|I would have saw those recorders and would have immediately left.|
I went into Midsommar with probably the wrong expectations as I was expecting a horror film that was in the same vein as Hereditary. To put it simply, they’re not the same. Midsommar wasn’t outright scary to me in the way that Hereditary was. This one never got my heart racing or sent chills down my spine and I didn’t jump or squeal in fright. However, I won’t argue that Midsommar isn’t in any way scary. The movie was more unsettling and creepy as we join a group of friends who are in unknown territory. The actions of the Swedish townsfolks are inherently uncomfortable despite it all feeling welcoming. There’s always an edge of wickedness wrapped in wholesomeness from the people that made for an atmosphere of unease but it, sadly, never toppled into complete and utter terror. Now, it is very possible that Aster didn’t want to make this film terrifying (and the overall feel suggests that is true) and the unease and unsettling tone was the overall goal. If that is the case, then it was very successful as this film feels unnerving at all times but, since I went in with different expectations, I was a little underwhelmed by this approach to the product.
|Oh crap, there is a gigantic Bill Cipher behind them!|
The one thing I really enjoyed about the film was how Aster once again explores grief but does so through the lens of a romantic partnership and how emotional distance from one partner can impact the grieving process and the relationship as a whole. Essentially, Midsommar is a breakup film wrapped up in a coating of folk horror. Aster does a tremendous job of developing the relationship between Dani and Christian as the unsettling reality of the celebration unfolds around them. Christian is a legit shitty boyfriend who constantly invalidates Dani and seeing how she ultimately deals with this dynamic was not only interesting and engaging as a viewer but it was impressive to see how Aster developed this as well as the horrors that is approaching the group as they learn about this community simultaneously and in a complimentary fashion. While the two elements balance thanks to underlying themes, it could have easily been distracting if the narrative felt like the development of these points was taking turns, so to speak. However, Aster was able to merge these two elements and develop both of them tremendously at the same time and at an intriguing pace.
|I never thought I'd watch a horror film that would make me sit back and think|
about whether or not I was a shitty boyfriend like Christian.
The cast in the film is fantastic and filled with very talented people. Florence Pugh does an amazing job as Dani. Her emotional reactions to what the character was going through and how she dealt with conflict from her boyfriend felt incredibly realistic. Jack Reynor is doing a great job at being a disappointing boyfriend without overdoing it or making it feel too over-the-top. The rest of the performers, whether it be Will Poulter being that usual horror film character that is such an ass that you love to hate him or William Jackson Harper who is the character that has a studious approach to this getaway or even all the extras or supporting characters, everyone is just doing a tremendous job at not only their characters but providing ambiance to the world and the conflict being crafted.
|Oh, Chidi, there is no doubt this time. You are definitely in the Bad Place.|
Sadly, for me, Midsommar wasn’t a complete homerun. I already mentioned that my own expectations ended up causing a bit of disappointment as the tone is more unsettling than frightening but, overall, that wasn’t a real killer because the atmosphere is still damn effective for making the viewer uncomfortable with all the shit that is going down. For me, ultimately, the big drawback is how the film feels long. The story never felt like it was dragging to me but that isn’t to say the almost two and a half hour running time felt like it was moving at a swift pace just rather a manageable one. I will grant that for the story the tale needs to grow at a slow burn but too often the feature felt very long and, at other times, perhaps too long.
|"I can fly! Downwards! Oh shit, no this is falling!"|
Midsommar is an overall intriguing feature but not one that I would say that entertained me. It is doing some stuff insanely well and features an amazing cast but its running time hampered it and it just didn’t have that zip to make it as memorable as Hereditary was. I get this film was going for a different atmosphere and it does succeed tremendously at being unsettling and carrying a vibe of overall unease but it just wasn’t able to fully get its hooks into me and pull me in the way Aster’s previous product was able to accomplish. Overall, the movie feels more like a great conversation starter for dissecting the various concepts it puts forward but as a piece of entertainment I didn’t think it was the strongest.