“Midsommar” stars Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, and Will Poulter. Released on July 3, 2019, the film is about a couple who discovers a Swedish village with a dark secret.
The film is written and directed by Ari Aster, who is known for directing “Hereditary”. The summer of horrors continues as we have yet another scare-fest that will surely give us nightmares for weeks. Last year, Ari Aster arrived at the scene and delivered his directorial debut, “Hereditary”. While it wasn’t able to grab the Academy’s attention, it received plenty of praise from critics and horror fans alike for its unnerving nature and its haunting story. This year, Aster is getting ready to haunt us yet again with a new horror film that will surely make us think twice about cultural traditions. I was really impressed with Aster’s first feature film as a director. It’s not something that I would immediately watch again because of how disturbing it was, but it’s easy for me to admit that he has a way of getting into my skin when it comes to the film’s imagery. So it would be interesting to see if he can pull it off again with his second film. Jordan Peele was able to do it with “Us” a few months ago, so it would make sense that Aster would do the same, right?
The story follows Dani (Pugh) and Christian (Reynor), a young couple whose relationship has become strained due to the former being affected by a tragic incident. When she learns that Christian and his friends are being invited by his Swedish friend Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) to attend a midsummer celebration, she decides to tag along. During their stay, they discover that this type of celebration is hardly a celebration at all, and then a lot of crazy stuff happens. It’s best described as a “breakup film” disguised as a folk horror film, so it’s probably not a good idea to choose this as a date night movie. Similar to “Hereditary”, Aster relied on the horror elements to portray a realistic and uncomfortable drama that involves the characters dealing with some sort of tragedy. It’s the type of formula that made “Hereditary” one of the most discomfiting experiences I’ve ever experienced. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Unfortunately, it’s also the type of formula that turns off modern moviegoers who are looking for a horror film that’s filled with jump scares and edge-of-your-seat thrills, and it looks like “Midsommar” has that problem as well. This film will strongly depend on what type of horror film you prefer. You might be someone who likes horror films that constantly scare the pants out of you with cheap jump scares and CGI monsters or you might be someone who likes to be disturbed by the sense of realism, the imagery, and the settings. Unsurprisingly, “Midsommar” aims for the latter, for better or for worse. My personal experience with the film was pretty much what I expected it to be: bizarre and uncomfortable. Although, it didn’t affect me as much as “Hereditary” did last year. There were some things in the film that were quite impressive, but when it comes to how effective the disturbing imagery was, I felt that this one was a step down from Aster’s stunning debut. The film’s story had plenty of deep meanings, so it can be hard for people to understand it during their first viewing. For the most part, I thought the story was interesting and unnerving because of its sense of realism and dread, but it’s not something that I would write home about. The film also suffers from its pacing and its running time, which is close to two and a half hours long. I think that Aster got a bit carried away with the film’s runtime. Combined with the slow pacing and the lack of memorable scares, watching “Midsommar” can be a chore for those who prefer fast-paced horror films. On the positive side, the film did wonders in representing a talented cast and Aster’s filmmaking style. Florence Pugh delivered a stellar performance as Dani. She successfully captured her character’s sense of distraught and fear with ease. The rest of the cast also did a really good job with their performances, including Reynor and Poulter as Christian and Mark, respectively. Whether it’s drama or horror or both, Aster has proven to me once again that he’s a talented filmmaker that uses the cinematography and its graphic imagery to portray the story that he wanted to tell. It’s painfully slow and upsetting, but it’s also beautiful to look at in terms of the film’s Swedish settings and the visuals. I guess Aster wanted to make something that didn’t have really dark lighting.
Overall, “Midsommar” is an unsettling and gorgeous experience that couldn’t quite live up to its full potential. Despite some strong performances and Aster’s direction, this weird celebration fell short of being a success due to the film’s slow pacing and the lack of unforgettable shocks. I would definitely like to see what Aster would do next in the near future. Until then, I believe he has some more work to do if he wants to impress people outside of his target audience.