Lee, or El Duderino, if, you're not into the whole brevity thing’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Put your disgusting dick away!"
So as some of you may know, I was one of the few that wasn't obsessed over Ari Aster's extremely well-made directorial debut, Hereditary. While I thought Toni Collette gave an awards worthy performance, loved the set design, and felt the didactic family dynamics, I thought that it's predictability and tendency to stay within its genre killed a lot of the terror and suspense. In other words, the third act was as predictable as ever, and could have honestly been the second act revelation, allowing for a truly wild third act climax. Then again, it could also be that I couldn't see past the exact, Kill List comparisons and influence. So to say I made it my goal to learn and see nothing about Midsommar until I had seen it myself, would be an understatement. Predictability is a fickle mistress with me, and while it is not always the fault of the filmmakers, it does affect my initial impressions. So I can happily say that I successfully managed to see Midsommar with only the knowledge that Florence Pugh was in it, and that it takes place in some part or all in/around a Swedish cult. So obviously, The Ritual, The Wicker Man, and Apostle came to mind. All films which in hindsight, we're more enjoyable for me. But Florence being attached is sufficient enough for me. I'd watch anything with Pugh, a rising starlet who seems to be following the same increasing fame that Anya Taylor-Joy has had.
So alas, Ari Aster once again really let me down. There's a lot to love here, but there was also a lot of unfortunately repeated ground and very expected results. Midsommar is not the Hereditary level sophomore followup you may have wanted, but it's absolutely a welcome expansion to Aster's repertoire. I sincerely do look forward to his continued filmography, and await for him to floor me. As for Midsommar, it was leisurely delivered like a folk fairy-tale to you before bedtime, but it was one that your parents had already told you years ago. Either he really loves foreshadowing almost every single surprise moment, or the cult genre has become far to formulaic. You could even admire the cheekiness of him literally telling or emoting you what's going to happen, in the fact that his carefully selected backdrop set design informs you of pivotal plot points. For any fellow detectives in the crowd Aster certainly leaves a lot of writing on the walls and tables set for us. So you can imagine my blank face as everything I threw up as a potential result, coming to the exact resolution. I'm sure people will be pausing the opening backdrop, as it foreshadowed everything. And in terms of being a cult film, I was very underwhelmed by how tame it was. Not a single scene came off as disturbing and if not for the excellent The Haxan Cloak score, there would be a hollow sense of building suspense. Even not being a big fan of Hereditary, I might be in the minority of preferring his freshman attempt compared to this. Come to think of it, Midsommar was much more a dark comedy than suspense horror, as I and the 6 other people in my audience were laughing quite a lot. Comedy in the form of both how stupid and gullible the characters are, but also in how laughable the tone of various scenes were (especially the matching pitch and vibe scenes had me giggling so much). There is more gore in this than Hereditary, but it's nothing surprising in the slightest for those versed in a standard cult film. More surprisingly was the full frontal nudity in both men and women.
Obviously Ari Aster's internal familial experiences and possibly intriguing upbringing has been brought up by many. Whatever he's been through is certainly top tier organic fuel for his storytelling and visual art, keep it up. And don't mind me in saying he must have a fetish for deformity and skullf***ing... Boy does he love including those. But something I haven't really seen mentioned about Aster, is his near perfectionist almost theatre set oriented direction, especially with interior sets. I wouldn't be surprised to learn he had a theatre background, or will be doing a play at some point. It's not quite as symmetrical as Wes Anderson, but it rides right up to that border and decides to remain in the side of naturalistic rater than unique charm. The screen is his playground, and he manages his characters like a doll house (past pun intended), deftly maneuvering them with such grace and ease. That apartment to flight transition was 😘👌. The first act is undoubtedly the best section, and I need some more of that pure drama from him. On a technical scale, I have no qualms with Aster, and Midsommar is a very well executed and presented expansion from his prior work. Not only die she literally switch the colour palette, but he opens it up more out of the claustrophobic family drama to a vibrant stylised open air one with nature commune. Midsommar had a handful of beautiful shots, and the symbolism was strong with it, especially for fellow fans of the Norse. The various runes of vitality, flow of life, warrior's bravery, natural cycle, fertility, and the almost too obviously comedic script certainly offer plenty of entertainment and intrigue. But the ending was regrettably, "oh we're going with that choice, okay".
Acting was suitable across the board, with only a couple of characters getting time to develop. Obviously Florence Pugh was the star, and handled the themes of grief, loss, and trust very well. But she doesn't even hold up a flaming sunflower to Toni Collette in Hereditary. I'd argue the cast dynamics and themes were much heavier and layered in Hereditary, and yes I don't mind comparing them, as anyone would for a director with two of the same films. If there's one lesson to always take away from an Aster film, it's to be honest and always cherish yourself and those you love. Please don't ever put up appearances and masks to who you really are, especially when trying to make it in a relationship. The first 30min of the film gave me some gc flashbacks. Shout out to Jack Reynor for his nice guy shtick, the extras for making hilarious emotes and screams, and that's about it. This is not a performance driven film, and that has clearly become an artistic staple for my opinion of Aster. As he seems to enjoy the buildup through symbolism, set production, and tone, more than anything else. And while I might not love either film, I do love absorbing the sensory experience that Mr. Aster provides.
I don't know that I'll see it again in theatres, but then again I might just for the hell of it. I wasn't upset about spending money to see it, but I was letdown that I couldn't leave banging this runic drum. Lovely visuals, amazingly haunting cult inducing score (seriously, if the characters could hear it they'd turn around immediately), great performances, and the furtherment of a soon to be iconic filmmaker. Midsommar is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but please lower your expectations, it can't hurt. If you're looking to be blown away and utterly terrofied, I'm afraid I'll have to cancel my invitation to the festivities, because I didn't get any hint of horrifying trauma I'll need to sit and process. And maybe that was my biggest enemy, that I set up my mind to expect to be disgusted and confused by what I had seen. You know what? Maybe a more acclimated rewatch will leave a better taste in my mouth.
Anyway, I'll be right back, "She's gonna show me".
PS - Do not under any circumstances be so gullible with your drug consumption and trips into the unknown. As for the prior, please have someone you trust with your life to be your tripsitter, because hallucinogenic drugs are not to be underestimated. Trust me.