Midsommar ★★★★

An increasingly uncomfortable, unsettling & unnerving folk horror, Midsommar is another full-bore nightmare from the writer-director of Hereditary. Though not as terrifying as his directorial debut, Ari Aster's sophomore effort is still an ambitious & audacious attempt that establishes him as one of the boldest new talents to step in the filmmaking arena, and certainly one to watch out for.

Aster's direction is impressive, given how he keeps us invested & intrigued without giving much away. And despite the events unfolding at a gradual pace, the interest is never lost, thanks to the uneasy feeling that never leaves the scene. Add to that, by making the toxic relationship its central conflict, his script provides the pagan elements an added weight & dimension in how they impact the couple, both individually & as a pair.

The rituals, traditions & lifestyle of the small Scandinavian commune that Aster sketches draws its inspirations from earlier examples like The Wicker Man. Everything about the pagan cultists seems convincing coz it isn't rushed. We are allowed to immerse in their culture & learn about them at the same pace that our characters do, and the fine precision with which Aster balances dramatic tension with ritualistic horror makes it a thoroughly engrossing ride.

Despite majority of the plot taking place in sun-lit ambience, an invisible darkness envelops the surroundings, plus the ominous mood never allows us to settle down. The sense of isolation is further created by the remote setting in a foreign location. Both Florence Pugh & Jack Reynor chip in with excellent performances, especially Pugh who steals the show with surprising ease. Their relationship has an authentic vibe to it and they are well supported by the rest of the cast.

On an overall scale, Midsommar is a fable of grief, trauma, family, toxic relationships & paganism that's steered by Aster's top-notch direction & intelligent writing, comes encapsulated with a disquieting chill brought upon by its hallucinogenic camerawork & discomforting aura, and is further uplifted by brilliant performances from its cast. To sum up in a sentence, Ari Aster's latest is a powerfully alluring psychedelic trip that's just as harrowing as it is haunting & hypnotic.

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