Midsommar ★★★★

Aster has shown that he can push contemporary horror past the rigid boudaries set by what feels like the industry itself.  He hasn’t settled into that comfortable, repetitive, 90/100 minute contemporary horror clique, where so many directors have forgone artistic and creative value for a movie that is more digestable to the everyday horror viewer.  And unsurprisingly, digestible is the last word I would use to describe Midsommar; it sits in my stomach even now as I write this review.  But it doesn’t sit there like a glass of whole milk and some ricotta cheese, gurgling in my intestines, serving no purpose besides discomfort (though the discomfort is definitely there).  It sits there and serves as a constant reminder, forcing me to make sense of and explore the madness that took place during those 145 minutes.  

At the end of the day, what surprised me most about this movie was a bit surprising in and of itself.  It wasn’t what was physically displayed on the screen, while that was certainly jarring and thought provoking (yet to be expected of Ari “Cut-your-head-off-with-a-hack-saw” Aster).  But, it was the relatively unified, majority positive response regarding how people felt about this movie.  To me it seems like if there was ever a movie to elicit contention, it would be this one.  Hereditary felt easier to rally around; it was a more accessible, traditional horror movie with a tighter plot.  

At its base, the plot of this movie felt like an excuse to explore the depraved and grotesque.  And Aster set himself up to do so perfectly.  The Midsommar festival itself was shrouded in ambiguity and mystery.  It was complete with the dispersion of just enough information regarding what would actually be happening there to keep the characters and viewers around.  The festival was a blank slate for Aster to go all out and he didn’t shy away.  He walked a fine line between what was to be expected and what actually happened.  Yet because he didn’t really let the viewers quickly acclimate to the line he was walking, besides in so far as their knowledge that they were definitely walking the line, when something happened it hit hard, but not overpoweringly hard.  Aster took the usually long list of things that would have been just too much to put on the screen and actively made it shorter with concentrated, slow drip doses of insanity to the point where the viewer’s defenses had been compromised and they would greedily consume the next heinous ritual Midsommar had to offer.  

Aster’s ability to elicit such intense visceral responses to his films is something I admire.  With Midsommar he continued to show that he can do crazy, unconventional things, yet simultaneously operate just within the confines of what is grounded and rewarding to watch.

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