Midsommar ★★★★½

Ari Aster is a master of terror and a specific kind of terror, who has found a way to mine the misery at the center of the decay of human relationships, and then place it squarely in the pit of your stomach for an entire film. Whatever horrors that follow only exist to further twist that initial knife of misery.

It’s hard to discuss Midsommar and all the things it does so well without getting into specifics, and the less you know going into this movie, the better. Midsommar is beautifully shot and realized, every camera movement, every piece of set dressing adds to a growing feeling of unease. Aster layers the beauty of Nordic nature, on top of psychedelia, and then let’s them rot in front of you. Midsommar is mesemerizing and deeply uncomfortable and perfectly balanced them to where they only seem to compliment one another.

The question obviously arises “how does this compare to Aster’s previous outing Hereditary and The Wicker Man, which Midsommar does have a passing resemblance to?” And the answer is it doesn’t. Hereditary was more focused on visceral horror while Midsommar is more ethereal. They’re doing different things and they do them equally as well. I had initially said The Wicker Man comparisons were superficial, based on my memory of The Wicker Man. After a rewatch of Wicker Man, it does run a bit deeper, the base story has more similarities than I initially thought, visually there are moments Aster is paying homage, but I think merely dismissing Midsommar as “Ari Aster’s Wicker Man” ignores the depth of differences in details that craft something distinctly its own.

 Over the course of 3 films Aster has honed his unique brand of horror to a terrifying edge, I’m excited and dreading where it goes next. Despite the mountain of  technical praises you can place on top of his films, there is none higher than the simple truth that you do not exhale until the credits roll.