Midsommar Movie Review
Swedes have always had a bad reputation for cultish behavior, sacrifice, and cannibalism, but Ari Aster, the director of the sublime but divisive Hereditary, takes their misdeeds to a new level in Midsommar, a superbly staged if overlong descent into the brightest of hells.
Midsommar is a docu-horror of what really happens at a Swedish Summer Solstice festival, where the days are 20 hours long, the food is grand, and the seemingly friendly people are actually preparing outsiders for painful, miserable deaths and mutilations.
Florence Pugh delivers a downright terrific performance as a mentally fragile individual who recently suffered an unspeakable tragedy. She travels to Sweden with her emotionally distant boyfriend (Jack Reynor)—who was planning to dump her before said tragedy happened, and while we all know that you should wait two weeks before dumping someone after the loss of a close family member, he’s waited six months and counting to do the deed while also ruining the bro-trip his friends Mark (Will Poulter), Josh (William Jackson Harper, playing the exact same character he plays in The Good Place), and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), the best of friends who invites you to his family gathering where the family plans to do horrible things to your mutilated corpse, planned.
In other news, never trust foreigners. Especially white ones who speak better English than you do.
Aster proved with Hereditary that he knows how to deliver beautiful, unsettling horror—regardless of what you thought of the film, his mastery behind the camera brings to life a near-poetic vision, for better or worse. For Midsommar, in which nearly every scene is as bright as that annoying woman from the Progressive Insurance commercials, Aster draws you into his sun-bleached nightmare carefully, piece by piece, layer by layer. His methodical storytelling approach leads to an increasingly unnerving experience, one in which his fairytale is wholly unpredictable—except for that bad things are going to happen to the innocents involved.
As with Hereditary, the underlying plot—or plot mechanics—aren’t new; the horror genre is full of stories, from Wicker Man to, arguably, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where individuals are victimized by a family or cult. But Aster’s visual touch, combined with his ability to develop a sense of indiscernible dread, introduces new elements and a refreshingly unique atmosphere.
If it weren’t so goddamned long.
At nearly two-and-a-half hours, Midsommar is never boring—far from it. And yet, after a while, after the proverbial writing on the wall has been laid bare for the remaining characters, it begins to get a bit tedious. The final 30 minutes, while strong on their own and undeniably disturbing, start to drag—only because Aster spent so much time getting to them. While scene by scene Midsommar works wonders, the whole package is stretched.
When a visual director is given free reign, this happens sometimes.
Midsommar is a gorgeously delicious and f**ked up horror movie, but some tightening would have made the film’s final minutes land with even more of a bang.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.