Michael’s review published on Letterboxd:
Ari Aster's Two Thousand Maniacs!
Wasn't gonna see this opening weekend because seeing horror with a large crowd is always a really big gamble and I tend to have bad luck with it, I decided around 5:30 though that I was gonna see this today because I kept getting...not spoiled, exactly, but seeing stuff from and about this that I felt I would have enjoyed discovering on my own (I went on a social media blackout for the time between Hereditary's premiere and when I actually saw it, except for this website. I do it somewhat frequently when something I'm really anticipating comes out (genre stuff, usually) but I decided I didn't care enough to do it for this movie but it turns out I at least kind of did). There were two shows left in the day in my closest theater and they were at 7:15 and 10:15 and I was like "I don't wanna watch a 150 minute movie after 10" given that I'm an extremely old lady living inside of a relatively young man's body so I bought the 7:15 tickets. I usually get to the theaters like fully thirty+ minutes before a movie begins because I'm a maniac but just this one time I got there only fifteen minutes before and found that it was fully sold out (don't think I've gone to a sold out show since...The Conjuring? the horrible cinematic experience that made me kinda stop seeing horror movies opening night) and there was a line that legitimately snaked through the entire theater that I had to get in the back of, ending up crammed in some emergency exit staircase for the fifteen minutes before the show. So you can guess I had some baaaaad seats for this thing. It was fine though I guess.
Really conflicted on the actual movie, though, which is maybe why I spent so much time talking about my worthless life experiences. Kind of intensifies everything I felt about Hereditary, where I think he gets some stellar performances (I didn't love Pugh as much as Collette but it's at least partially because I love movies about middle aged mothers with depression a little bit more than any other kind of movie) but he never feels fully engaged with the drama, and the horror is never unique or fully baked enough (yet again Aster can't seem to conjure images much scarier than the old or deformed body, a big eye roll from me) or integrated well enough, resulting in some more or less unimportant peregrinations (the scooped thesis subplot). (Though the moments of gore in this thing get nothing but heart eye emojis from me, you all know me.) It's formally really precise but I just didn't feel the same cohesion in the screenplay or the tone, etc.
Like Hereditary, it's more or less familiar beat-by-beat if you've seen any number of horror movies, but at least it feels like Aster is aware of it now. The protagonist shift in Hereditary I felt was supposed to be surprising but it just...wasn't, whereas Midsommar sets itself up as a movie about something and where certain things that you will certainly predict will happen. And they do, but it doesn't feel like the movie is above itself the way Hereditary sometimes felt.
I dunno, like Hereditary I read raves of this thing and think "I agree with most of that" and then I read scathing critiques and think "I agree with most of that." Even if Aster has yet to make a movie I love (I do think I like this more than Hereditary, we'll see), he does have my attention (I don't really know any other modern horror filmmakers who I can't quite place my feelings on) and I'll probably watch everything he ever makes.