Directed by Ari Aster.
Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Archie Madekwe, Ellora Torchia, and Will Poulter.
A young American couple (Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor) venture with a group of friends to Sweden for what they think will be a typical vacation. Sadly, the fabled Swedish midsummer festival is unlike anything they’ve seen before.
Have you ever been invited to a party or an event where you feel lost about the culture surrounding it? Imagine that on the most massive scale and lasting for over two hours. That’s an excellent way to start trying to summarize Midsommar.
The film is equal parts challenging and entertaining, but you can’t take your eyes off the madness. Even when things are at the most violent or most disturbing, you still need to see how all of it unfolds. Midsommar is an experience that I won’t ask every viewer to go through, but it’s something any horror fan would eat up. And if you are going through a bad break-up, this will heal those wounds way quicker than a sappy romantic comedy.
Yes, director Ari Aster described Midsommar as a “break up move disguised as a folk horror movie;” something I didn’t grasp until viewing the film and that’s the best way to sum it all up. You’ll see the relationship of two people deteriorate over the film’s runtime, and honestly, it feels more disturbing than some of the violence on display in the movie. At times, the mistrust & miscommunication feel all too real and awkward; which does a great job of grounding you when the movie starts ascending to a different level.
No matter how much the movie made you want to turn away, the striking visuals and compelling direction from Ari Aster keeps your eyes glued to the screen. Aster is excellent at mixing both style and substance with his horror, which most filmmakers either go one way or the other, but he perfectly shows you can look stylistic and still pack a punch. While the film is nowhere near the heaviness or emotional strengths of his debut film Hereditary, Midsommar still feels like a “think piece” more than a straightforward thrill ride.
At the center of all the film’s madness is Florence Pugh (Fighting With My Family, Lady Macbeth) delivering a star-making performance. Where Hereditary solidified Toni Collette as a force in this industry, Midsommar feels like a coming out party for Florence Pugh. If you didn’t know her name, you’d remember it after viewing her work here. From start to finish, Pugh lays it all bare with every emotion on display, and the dial turned up to 11. She takes Ari Aster’s direction and runs with it like a seasoned pro, proving that she needs more work in this genre and Hollywood.
Pugh isn’t alone in her raw performance as Jack Reynor (Glassland, Macbeth) throws it all out there in every possible way. His group of friends featuring Will Poulter and the brilliant William Jackson Harper all sells the material well, but in terms of male performances in the film, Reynor runs circles around everyone. He goes from sympathetic to unlikeable at the drop of a hat and doesn’t feel afraid to let us see him lay it all bare. Maybe a little too naked at times…
Capturing all the horror is cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski, following his equally impressive work in Hereditary. Unlike the 2018 horror film, the scariest parts of Midsommar are in the brightest of daylight. It’s an outstanding choice and adds to the hysteria on the movie as you are begging for some darkness to hide all of the gross moments.
Another bold choice is using the cinematography to sell the trippy vibes anytime a character is under the influence of something in the movie. It allows you to as a viewer to know when things are going to get stranger than usual and messes with your mind as you never know what to trust.
As entertaining as the ride is though, the inclusion of mind-altering substances and “fish out of water” setting makes this feel a bit messy at times. While you expect a level of disorientating during a movie like this, but it’s hard to grasp what the film is trying to say by the time credits roll. Following such a straight-forward piece on grief and an odd family, Ari Aster decides to swing for more fences here.
Tackling an odd Swedish cult, a break-up, distrust between friends, the grief of a young woman who lost her family, and so much more in one film feels overwhelming, but that might be the intended feeling. Sometimes the artist wants to overload you with information, so you can find something that works for you. But personally, focusing on one or two of the insane topics in the film would’ve made it easier to digest.
Still, there’s nothing quite like Midsommar in theatres right now. For years, arthouse horror was something you’d find through word of mouth or hear about at festivals, but there’s a place for movies like this now. If you had no interest in the film before, this isn’t for you. But anyone wanting to venture in a strange land and take some unknown substances, Midsommar is for you. This film is undoubtedly one deliciously dark experience, and it’s fighting with Us as the year’s best horror movie.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★