Midsommar ★★★★

I avoided any and all promotional material going into Midsommar; after the devastation that was Hereditary, becoming one of my favorite films of 2018, I wanted to go into this one as bling as possible. All I knew was the premise and that it was "a horror movie." Low and behold, upon my first viewing, I felt a sense of disappointment. Perhaps I was expecting the high-strung tension of director Ari Aster's debut picture, and that constant expectation damped my enjoyment of the film...

Which was outright killed when my AMC lost power with 20 minutes of the movie left. Midsommar is not a short movie, clocking in at 147 minutes. I bitterly left the theater, and was uncertain if I would return; I did not love Midsommar like I hoped, and was not sure if recommitting the time was fruitful. Thankfully, a friend talked me into it, and I went into Midsommar with a different, more psychologically-analytical perspective, and it made all the difference. Midsommar is chilling, but not for the outward reasons one might expect.

The closest comparison I could make for Midsommar is The Shining, a film I originally despised, but upon a rewatch many years later, absolutely adore; the same could be said here. The two share a more unsettling, uncomfortable tone; even the beginning conversations between Florence Pugh's Dani and Jack Reynor's Christian are just downright layered in tension and disconnection that only ramps up. What Midsommar absolutely nails is instead of creating some hokey situation and throwing its characters in it, it uses the situation to exacerbate already established dysfunctional dynamics; this isn't new or novel in horror films, but it's absolutely well-executed here.

The same can be said for the cinematography and shot composition - whether it be the framing, moving shots (there's one involving a car that just made me outright uncomfortable for reasons hard to explain), or the lingering upon certain characters, Midsommar aims to make its audience squirm in both the minor moments, and the major ones. Horror films make frequent use of darkness to invoke dread; Midsommar does it in the light.

However, I do wish some elements were more...clear? Or, at least, further utilized. The setting and background usage are fantastic, but some character arcs feel unfulfilled, with some characters just essentially dying off-screen without a whole lot of questioning from the remaining cast (who are fantastically acted - Florence Pugh is the queen of guttural noises here). Because Midsommar is such a long film, there's some downtime from the major moments (like, the "trips" or that...cliff scene) that distills some of the tension that made Hereditary a seat-clencher. Midsommar feels its length, and while many will love every second, I wished to get to some moments a tad quicker on my second viewing.

But, it all combines excellently into an agonizing, visually disturbing ending sequence that really frames the film well; it's all about the destruction of relationships, and the literal sacrifices that come with them. Midsommar has no doubt had many walkouts, but the ending left many gripped to their seats. It's weird, ad destructive, and no doubt crosses Sweeden off my "places to visit list." Yeah, no thanks.

Midsommar is a rare example of how going in blind, with only a base expectation built from prior work, can be deceiving; my first viewing of Midsommar left me frustrated, but a later one left me fulfilled. It exists in a place where the sun shines all the time, and it's all the more hellacious for it.

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