Kinotherapy’s review published on Letterboxd:
Not one Ingmar Bergman reference.
So I'm usually not the detractor of new releases that you usually see pop up in retaliation, and well, I still won't consider myself a detractor. "Midsommar" isn't bad, but it's not great, it's just... okay.
After the impactful horror film "Hereditary" many were eager to see what Ari Aster's next film would be. My curiosity grew more when I saw all the marketing for this film portraying very non-horror like scenery, with grassy fields, sunny days, and girls dancing. A clever juxtaposition as to the events that happen in the film; however the events and the concept were slightly disappointed as I felt nothing new was brought to this idea we've seen before.
But thank God, for that camerawork! So many scenes are incredibly well directed, that I think it's what kept me interested for most of the film. Beautiful cinematography, great editing and composition, perfect staging of background characters as something is always happening. This film is amazing from a visual standpoint! I can certainly pick out some other scenes and moments I enjoyed, but as I tried to gather my thoughts as I left the theater, while I didn't hate it, I started to pin down some key problems.
For starters, the film takes a little too long to get started. It's not too slow, and the pacing is fine. We are learning things that we as an audience should now, but I felt like it took a while to get there. One of my favorite things about cinema is just how much we can learn from one shot. By reading the screen we're able to gather so much about the characters, their relationships, circumstances, and read subtle hints as to what's going on. Take the opening scene in "Halloween" for instance. It's a mysterious yet quick scene that sets you in the disturbing atmosphere, while revealing to you the circumstances of what's to come. That scene is perhaps five minutes or less, while I want to say it's about 20 or 30 minutes before we even get to the Swedish village. No spoilers but the opening is basically a family tragedy that takes too long to happen. It's not secretive at all and doesn't build tension. I kind of guessed that's what was going to happen, and I feel like the main characters feelings toward said tragedy would be pretty obvious. I don't feel like we had linger so long on things we know would happen.
Which brings me to my biggest problem with the film, is it's kind of predictable. I guessed quite a few key points in the plot that would happen, and sure enough I was just about right on everyone of them. A couple of them I said not fully confident, just in a joking way, and it still happened! If you've ever seen the film "Wicker Man" you should have a pretty good idea of what you're in for. I know this film has already been compared to it a lot, hell even the endings are synonymous (I won't spoil it, but if you've seen "Wicker Man" trust me, it would spoil itself) And there's nothing wrong with a film doing a similar concept. The concept of "Hereditary" wasn't all that original, yet the way it blended, supernatural, possessions and even cults with a family drama was unique. It presented new elements, with lots of detail, and a wholly unique story too. "Midsommar" just feels like your run of the mill 'creepy cult' movie. And that's why I bring up "Wicker Man" because I feel like if you've seen that are any other cult movie, you've seen "Midsommar" because unfortunately there isn't a whole lot of new ideas presented.
On a sidenote, there's apparently another film called "Midsummer" where a bunch of teens go to Sweden after a tragedy and get haunted. Haven't seen it, don't know much about it, but I'm just putting that out there!
What disappointed me as well is we know almost nothing about the cult or why they are the way they are. There's a discussion at a couple scenes, but I would've liked to know more about the cult, specifically why they did all these horrible things. What was their motivation? Were they following some supernatural force? Was there a manipulative dictator governing the rules? We never know, they were creepy and dangerous just because, and most of it seemed like an excuse for gore and shock-horror.
At the end our protagonist makes a major decision, which I predicted from the beginning she would, but albeit, seemed to abrupt and came out of nowhere. Rather than watch her digress and change, her turn-around just sort of happens. I thought all the acting was great, especially from our lead actress! The way she shows her grief is spot on, from hiding it, to expressing it, much better than the crying kid we got in "Hereditary" Her boyfriend on the other hand, I can't say the same thing for. His only expression seems to be staring wide-eyed at people. I just found him unconvincing.
I was into most of the creepy scenes in the first half of the film and partially invested due to the way the camera constructed scenes and built tension; but once I saw where the film was going, and just how the story wasn't coming together I started to lose it. Some effective moments, some good acting, and of course, that glorious cinematography! Visually this is a well directed film, unfortunately, Aster, just needed to make his villains motivation more clear, and the story more original. Personally, I like "Hereditary" more, and I think this film makes me appreciate Aster's debut film better. I still I like a lot of parts of "Midsommar". Many seem to like this, so go check it out if you're curious. Perhaps I'll see it again just to be sure, but now it's a...