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Midsommar Review

July 4, 2019 | Posted by Joseph Lee
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Midsommar Review  

*Florence Pugh as Dani
*Jack Reynor as Christian
*William Jackson Harper as Josh
*Vilhelm Blomgren as Pelle
*Will Poulter as Mark
*Ellora Torchia as Connie
*Archie Madekwe as Simon

Story: Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) are a young American couple with a relationship on the brink of falling apart. But after a family tragedy keeps them together, a grieving Dani invites herself to join Christian and his friends on a trip to a once-in-a-lifetime midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village. What begins as a carefree summer holiday in a land of eternal sunlight takes a sinister turn when the insular villagers invite their guests to partake in festivities that render the pastoral paradise increasingly unnerving and viscerally disturbing.

The name Ari Aster might not seem familiar to you, but the film Hereditary almost certainly will be. The horror film came out last year and took the community by storm. In spite of what now appears to be a vocal minority, it was beloved by many and topped many “best-of” lists of that year. Many were eager to see what this promising new voice in the genre would do next. As it turns out, he wasn’t done telling tales of pagan cults, but he was going to gone even deeper into it and things were going to get a lot crazier. That’s how we arrived at Midsommar, which a year and a month later.

A cult film (that is, a movie about cults) is likely one of those subgenres that’s easy in theory to make, but much harder in practice to get right. The idea is pretty simple. Take a bunch of people, put them in all while outfits, give them wacky religions beliefs and make them just crazy enough that they’ll kill to fulfill those beliefs. Simple, right? And yet, not every movie out there can be The Wicker Man. Many end up being The Wicker Man remake, or worse, those cheap, lazy exploitation movies that followed the Manson Family murders.

This could easily follow in the same vein, in that it’s a group of college kids traveling to a foreign country (Sweden), meeting up with the locals of a small village and observing their customs during a 9-day festival that only comes around every 90 years. Even someone who has seen Hostel probably has a vague understanding of what might await these kids, but this movie tries to subvert expectations by, at the very least, taking the scenic route and doing something different than turning this into a standard “cult members kill college kids” movie.

Midsommar has a lot of messages within it and a lot of things it wants to comment on. Or at least, it seems like it has a lot it wants to say. There’s a lot of focus on mental illness, drug use, the nature of relationships & family, living in a community, how society treats its old and invalid and more. It’s a lot to unpack and even with a run time of 140 minutes, it only really scratches the surface. All of this and yes, there’s a lot of carnage and mayhem too, as you’d expect from a movie about a cult that does crazy cult things. Don’t worry, this isn’t some arthouse thinkpiece that happens to feature a cult.

To say what’s really going in Midsommar outside of the synopsis would be spoilers, but it’s safe to assume that nothing is what it seems and things do get bad for our leads. There’s enough nastiness and violence contained within to satisfy anyone looking to get shocked. There’s also some unsettling imagery there too, as Aster has an eye for how to position the camera and his macabre moments in such a way that they’ll stick with you. The cinematography and neat camera work remains as good here as it was in Hereditary, so if you were a fan of that, you’ll love it here.

If there was an issue with Midsommar, besides perhaps overstuffing it with too much, is that there are some questionable acting choices on the part of Jack Reynor. That’s not to say he’s bad, and it may in fact be intentional on the part of the director, but at times it seems like he’s trying to be funny when the tone looks to be serious. Then again, there are times when the movie itself seems to take on a very black, morbid sense of humor. Midsommar is confusing in that sense, not in that it doesn’t know what it wants to be, but in that it intentionally disorients the audience as the people in this commune try to disorient the people who visit it. There are certain scenes that are clearly meant to be both visually disturbing but also come off as darkly funny as well.

This is going to be a film that will likely be discussed for some time, and it will certainly be polarizing, perhaps even more so than Hereditary was. There’s just a lot to take in and while there is a lot there that horror fans could love, it doesn’t mean they all will. However if you’re in the right frame of mind and you’re a fan of the director, you’ll likely find yourself open to enjoying the festivities that Ari Aster is inviting you to.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Ari Aster does it again. There's a lot to unpack with Midsommar and it's something that is likely going to be studied in film classes. As for the rest of us, it's still a nutty cult movie with a lot of insane stuff going on that's sure to have everyone talking as they leave the theater. It's gruesome, disturbing, unsettling and at times, darkly comedic. Midsommar is currently the front-runner for horror film of the year.

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Midsommar, Joseph Lee