Midsommar ★★★★

Whenever the epitaph of Ari Aster’s career receives its final inscriptions (hopefully in the very distant future after a long career of perverse, mesmerizing horror hits), many will likely conclude that his singular imagination and childlike delight in viscerally disturbing imagery the audience cannot look away from represent his most significant contributions to cinema. That is, his presentation does much to significantly compensate for the admitted familiarity of narratives he uses as vessels for probing the human psyche. The net gains of this trade off are likely to soar exponentially, given how much of an aesthetic improvement it is over Hereditary (even if I prefer that film a smidge on account of Toni Collette’s performance). There are shots that appear to go on forever, capturing the surprisingly expansive area covered in this hellish pocket of Sweden, yet also evoke the symmetrical tendencies of many arthouse works. What Aster accomplishes here also brought my attention to the immense task of getting extras to pull off painstakingly coordinated tasks with such precision. In many ways, this often holds a candle to films like Guadagnino’s Suspiria in terms of commanding such visual respect.

Of course, one must also give credit to the performances. Florence Pugh makes yet another case for herself as one of the most promising breakouts of the late 2010’s, channeling the baggage of unhealthy relationships and meshing it with the overwhelming divorce from reality that comes from malaise and bad trips. Even the outright comic relief characters - Will Poulter and Jack Reynor to a lesser degree - manage to inject some depth into their characters while delivering some of the more darkly funny moments.  Their synergy with Aster demonstrates that the potential for genuinely stirring performances may be another positive contribution from this decade’s art horror wave.

I came into Midsommar expecting to be toyed around with and palpably disturbed, and received that alongside the other hallmarks of an Aster work. So long as he delivers on the ghastly visual delights as effectively (and maintains the strong sense of pacing maintained here), I shall continue leaping headfirst into his films.

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