Biscoito18’s review published on Letterboxd:
Part of HOOPT🔮BER 6.0: “Must be the Season of the Witch” challenge.
Another emotionally exhausting horror from Ari Aster, who with just two films has already become one of the most celebrated horror directors today. All compliments are well deserved.
With the release of "Midsommar", we can already identify some distinct attributes of this young horror master's intricate work. From the use of light beams to visually indicate changes in the characters' mental state to the choice of "family" as the primary source of horror.
Aster faces horror in its most primitive form, both in terms of the content, that is, the source of this feeling, as well as the form, when valuing both the psychological aspect and the shocking exposures of raw violence.
There's no holier bond than the one we form with those we call family and nothing can be more traumatic than losing one of those people in a brutal and unexpected way. It's a fear we all share, and it's so deep-rooted in our soul that we don't even like to think about it.
It's this trauma, capable of destroying any emotional and logical foundation, that Aster explores. It's extremely exhausting to put yourself in the shoes of these characters, but this is crucial if you want to understand the true horror proposed by him.
In other words, it takes sensitivity and empathy to enjoy the roller coaster of feelings that is "Midsommar".
Regarding the form used to exploit these traumas and invoke horror in the audience, Aster is straightforward but without abandoning elegance. Visually explicit but without renouncing the power that imagination can have in establishing an unforgettable horror image.
He lets us take a good look at the crushed meat (the practical effects are spectacular) but never make it the main appeal. Graphic violence is there because it's part of the whole. A good director has to know the right time to turn away the camera, but if you sustain horror only with the power of your audience's imagination, it's unlikely to have the same impact.
A R-rating IS important!
But enough about Frankenstein. Let's talk about his monster.
"Midsommar" addresses the family both at its end and in its early days. Dani (Florence Pugh in an extraordinary performance) has to face both at the same time.
Her relationship with Christian (Jack Reynor), even before the tragic events of the first act, is her desperate attempt to forge strong family ties. It only gets worse over time, to the point where she just has to hear the word "family" to start crying.
The awkward dialogues and silences between the two, typical of a dying relationship, are oddly relatable. We've all been in this ungrateful position, which makes all the drama much more personal and self-reflective for the audience.
"Midsommar" is also being responsible for the resurgence of interest in Folk Horror, also called Pagan Horror. In this respect, it has enough originality to be more than just a love letter, but also one of the best entries of the sub genre.
Up to a point you feel like one of the guests, learning along with the characters. There's even a scene before the first big ceremony where one of the local boys purposely looks straight into the camera and smiles as if inviting us to look at the big moment. A nice little touch by Aster.
One of the things I liked most was the way the cult share one member's pain with everyone else, moaning and screaming in agony together with the suffering person.
An idea that isn't only approached as something bizarre and distant from the protagonists, but also, in the final moments, as something acceptable. A natural, visceral and liberating way to show empathy and support for those we call family.
With all that said, the movie lacks a more dynamic editing. Also, even with all the trauma piling up on Dani (to the point of breaking her mind), the final decision still sounded like something out of character and even forced to create a striking final image.
It's one thing to have everything taken from you and then embrace the unknown (like the excellent ending of "The VVitch"), it's another to decide to destroy what/who has been, for years, your safe haven (no matter how stained it may be) in exchange for something you have just known and that contradicts the moral principles you have been taught since childhood.
In short, the transition between mentalities wasn't well structured.
Before closing, I have to congratulate Jack Reynor for facing, in the end, scenes that are extremely difficult for any actor, especially a famous one. Male frontal nudity is still a taboo in mainstream productions, so seeing a penis proudly swinging for art's sake on the big screen in a crowded theater was pretty empowering.
"Midsommar" is more romantic and youthful than "Hereditary" but it also addresses, at the heart of the occult drama, the family as the primary source of destruction and reconstruction of its characters.
A lovely crafted and deeply melancholic carnival of souls under the midnight sun.
9.5/10 - EXCELLENT