Horror in broad daylight
‘Midsommar’ is Ari Aster’s second take on the occult
Directed by Ari Aster
Screenplay by Ari Aster
Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Will Poulter
Rated R, Playing July 3
Midsommar follows a group of friends as they take a trip to Sweden to observe a rural town’s midsummer traditions. Dani (Florence Pugh) has just gone through a family tragedy and was invited on this trip out of courtesy from her estranged boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). Josh (William Jackson Harper) hopes to observe the town’s customs as part of his thesis on midsummer traditions. Mark (Will Poulter) is just in it for the shrooms and potential to score with some hot babes, and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), who is a native to the rural town in question, is excited to show his friends a part of his culture.
One of the most obvious things about this movie is how beautifully shot it is. There are plenty of long shots showcasing the picturesque landscape of the perpetually sunlit Swedish town. The ensemble staging also helps to create eye-pleasing formations as the natives go about their midsummer rituals, from carefully-timed feasts to hypnotic dances. It creates a false sense of paradise up until the horror aspects of the film start creeping in.
Speaking of which, the horror in this movie is definitely disturbing, though I personally expected more. A good amount of the horror takes place off-screen, and we are only ever exposed to the aftermath, which leads to the film feeling less like a traditional horror movie and more like a study of grief and its emotional impacts and of one rural Swedish town’s curiously culty rituals.
Midsommar starts with Dani suffering through a family tragedy whose details are never explicitly given to us. As the film progresses, Dani’s grief and emotional turmoil is highlighted often, and these key scenes usually succeed to unsettle audiences thanks to Florence Pugh’s magnificent performance in this role. Pugh really showcased Dani’s vulnerability and kept viewers engaged through Dani’s journey through the midsummer traditions.
Aside from Dani’s story, the film’s plot tends to be very slow and not fully fleshed out. The family tragedy is never fully explained nor really integrated in later parts of the story aside from giving Dani nightmares. The male characters could have had more potential but were often sidelined by their simple goals: Josh’s need to complete his thesis, or Mark’s desire to just have a good time and otherwise disregard general formalities.
Following the hype of Hereditary, Midsommar is disappointing with its lack of complexity and half-baked plot. It’s still definitely worth a shot to admire the film’s beauty and sound design, which often aids in disorienting the viewer from the picturesque landscape, but the product does not match up to all the anticipation surrounding it.