Midsommar ★★★★

Ari Aster makes Ari Aster movies. Lots of directors make horror movies. Lots of directors make horror movies with sex and violence. Lots of directors make horror movies with sex and violence as explorations of grief. But no one makes ‘em like Aster does.

Last year’s Hereditary was an intense nightmare of a film, one loaded with dread, terror and occultism designed to leave you feeling numb and empty. I found it absolutely delightful and it marked Ari Aster, in my mind, as someone to keep an eye on. Although clearly inspired by works such as The Exorcist and, more specifically in relation to Midsommar, the original The Wicker Man, Ari Aster’s films combine a mix of crushing atmosphere, intense violence, meditative metatext and lots of very long takes of passive-aggressive people talking about stuff and deliberately not talking about stuff in dim rooms in a unique style all his own.

In Midsommar, Florence Pugh plays Dani, a young woman who has become something of a nervous wreck following a tragic incident. Her emotional instability and kind of shitty boyrfriend Christian (played by Jack Reynor) eventually to following said shitty boyfriend and his friends on a vacation/academic retreat to a mysterious isolated swedish village where, wouldn’t ya know it, bizarre and perilous things start happening.

Midsommar is a considerably lighter film than Hereditary, and not just because the former takes place almost entirely in broad daylight. While it’s no less intense than Hereditary in terms of horror and gore (no one loses a head but they do get their faces smashed in), Midsommar carries with it an almost mischievous sense of humour; characters have their little quips, joke and all of it serves to balance the darker material of the film. Midsommar isn’t what I would call a “scary” film, rather, it and its predecessor are aimed at a more “holy shit, what the fuck am I looking at” sort of unnerving vibe than outright scares. There’s one sequence near the end of the film that mixes the film’s humour and “what-the-fuckness” to such an extant that it had be howling with laughter while also being creeped out of my skin.

All in all, I think I can say that I prefer Midsommar to Hereditary. The latter may have the scares but the former has basically everything else.

I really enjoyed Midsommar and I recommend it.