Finny!’s review published on Letterboxd:
''When he holds you, does it feel like home?''
Inane LiveJournal melodramatic dialogue, peppered through with agonising Adult Swim humour, all wrapped up in a plot so thin that everyone left the theatre with papercuts.
What a disappointment.
Midsommar reminds me, in a lot of ways, of Annihilation—a film which received similar acclaim off the back of flowery set design, and flowery, clever sounding vagaries in the dialogue.
There's just no meat to the film. It's entirely surface level.
Sure you can read Vox and Medium articles about all the easter eggs—oh, there were paintings of bears in the first scene... oh, did you know that Ättestupas are real... oh did you understand that all the screaming was a metaphor for empathy...—but that's not depth, it's just a film riddling itself with trivia in an attempt to claim depth.
And this shallow sensibility extends to the cult itself.
There's no sense of history to the cult's rituals. Nothing the cult does feels real. Nothing it does feels old or arcane.
It doesn't feel like the cult is engaging in centuries old traditions, passed down from father to son. It feels like the cult is doing a series of nondescript 'creepy' things, threaded through with the laziest kinds of visual metaphor, because Ari Aster thought they would be the right mixture of unnerving and clever.
Unfortunately, they're neither.
The film's shallow sensibility also extends to the setting.
Perpetual daylight is a great setting for a horror film, with so many weird implications. But, instead of exploring how much stress and psychological damage could potentially be caused by the complete destruction of a character's circadian rhythms, everyone just sleeps for 8 hours each night in a big dark dorm room.
And there's a convenient 2 hours of darkness each night, so Ari can have his spooky nighttime scenes instead of trying to create a sense of dread in the blazing sunlight.
And this shallow sensibility even extends to the directing.
Half of the film is shallow DoF mids, with the occasional shallow closeup or bland wide to break up the monotony.
All of the film's limited directorial flair is in service of bad metaphor—like when the camera goes upside down as the characters get to Sweden, because their worlds are about to be turned upside down; or how during an argument an apologetic character gets the upper hand, becoming annoyed, and swaps places with the initially annoyed character who, now on the apologetic side of the frame, proceeds to flip from angry to apologetic.
And then there's all the subtle little zooms and holds on subtle things that are placed subtly in scenes so subtly that you barely even notice them. You still barely even notice these subtle moments as Ari cuts around and zooms in on them a dozen times to make sure you've seen them—let's be honest, we all noticed the one drink being an entirely different colour to all of the others when it was just the group mid shot, there was no need for Ari to zoom in on it three separate times.
This kind of 'do you get it??' filmmaking just makes it feel like Ari has no faith in either the viewer or his own ability as a storyteller.
Whichever it is, it's a very offputting attribute for a film to have.
I just don't understand the acclaim.
What's so special here?
The themes of trauma and grief are hollow and underdeveloped, and when you take those themes away—and the associated visual metaphors—what's left?
It's just a sub-par horror film.
A sub-par horror film that doesn't go maximalist enough to be grand guignol, and isn't subtle enough to be moody and grim, and, on top of all of that, is ugly as sin.
A few positives:
It did sound good.
And the gore looked good, but was lingered on far too long, and lost its effectiveness as the film kept cutting back to it over and over—much like Mandy last year, Midsommar has good gore effects but doesn't understand how to use them effectively.
And Chidi from The Good Place was great—honestly, the film would have been far better if it was reworked to have him be the lead. I see a lot of people giving Florence Pugh props—i thought she was merely fine—but William Jackson Harper really carried the film for me.
And at least I was never bored.
Was it just me, or did certain scenes in this film feel cribbed from Gareth Evans' Apostle?
The most obvious one is a certain POV shot toward the end—even happening in a similar setting, circumstance, and similar point in the narrative—but there were also a few other moments where i definitely felt it.