karamashi’s review published on Letterboxd:
And now for a less reactionary review--
My biggest issue with Midsommar is that it has essentially replicated the effects of other better films (much like Hereditary), with very little understanding of why those elements work and leaving the film with even more diminishing results. Dani, defined by the grief of something not only outlandish but easily separated from the rest of the film(minus a few brief run ins with the images of those related to that grief), never develops any sense of autonomy beyond her panic attacks and slowly building indifference to her boyfriend. Said boyfriend is an uncaring asshole and stuck in the relationship as an obligation to Dani's guilt, though that is never explicitly explored.
For some off reason, besides the fact that Ari Aster has an obsession with cults/freak folks, this segues into a folk horror film that follows very closely to the tradition of "seemingly nice/white folk people are evil and gonna sacrifice you to lord krondar first chance they get"
Unless you are completely naive to the fact that any think group such as an all sunshine and smiles commune doesn't have an ulterior motive then honey, you have a big storm coming. For literally everyone else, we know exactly where this thing is gonna go and I hear yah, "sometimes its about the journey" but journey's are usually defined by someone's growth or change, a beginning and an end. When nothing seemingly changes for your main focal point, the rest falls to the wayside as pointless. Especially when the other people are just as one note dimwits that play as a easy lambs to the slaughter. Does anyone act reasonably when someone goes missing? No, they just accept it as is and move on. Yeah--I know--this is a horror film, so people acting a fool is the norm but liking them on some level, even liking an asshole character, is the first step into making them vulnerable, thus the audience feeling vulnerable, to the dangers and horror in your film. Not once did I feel anything but indifference for these characters with the exception of Dani via Florence Pugh's performance but that can only carry the emotional weight so far. Like Toni Collete in Hereditary, her suffering leads to no catharsis or emotional point that matters.
Okay--so how about the way its shot? Well, the dollhouse shots are reused for no greater good, most "interesting" shots evoke themselves as a technique, and for all the symmetry with runic patterns (aka vaginal triangles), the film is too damn messy for it to cohere into anything viscerally striking on an emotional level. That includes the shock moments of gore, that are again, repeats of the same kind of physical trauma flashed about in Hereditary, and reused too much that they lose the punch of their first appearance. "But he's trying to be funny!" You are right on this one--"trying" Most of the humor is derived from the cultural differences between dumb americans and the saintly folk. And that's even before the film rolls out incest, euthanasia, and volunteer sacrifice via runic bingo. Since the sensibilities of those among the commune are just as unaffected, until a character literally pisses on the unmarked ashes of their ancestry, the biggest weird irony is when one of them drops an off color joke about another film.
Ari also drops in another disabled child for no better purpose than to act as a conduit for the cult's purposes and then peaces out on any sense of importance to the rest of the film. It's also worth mentioning that the film never considers the majority of its victims being POC sacrificed by an all white folk commune as anything but an aside. Both are opportunities to engage in something thornier, but the film completely avoids it.
It's extremely frustrating to see so little effort given to the basic elements of a horror film. That oversight, like again, Hereditary, makes it feel as though the film is above itself. It wants to traumatize its characters without really dealing with any sort of narrative or moral consequences. There are no risks to torturing characters that aren't developed beyond the simple fact another human being is suffering from either physical or mental distress. But the film focuses heavily on this in such disaffected way, it makes me feel indifferent about the entire experience, especially when its not attempting to see the type of films it's inspired by eye to eye or really, heart to heart, or even subvert those expectations/formulas. For something so serious about itself, why does it feel like it doesn't take horror seriously? It's that kind of cynicism that mistrusts its audience and deflates any chance of the film ever really affecting us. It left me wholly unsatisfied.