Midsommar ★★★★★

Midsommar

This review contains some spoilers.

There is certainly a lot to unpack in Ari Aster's second feature film. Simultaneously more and less disturbing and messed up than its predecessor, Hereditary, Midsommar trades the darkness of night, supernatural elements, and the confines of trying to balance "mainstream horror" and arthouse for the brightness of a never-ending day, ritualistic drug-induced realism, and a complete disregard for anything but art.

Midsommar is slow, it is methodical, and sinister. Hereditary almost tried to inject some scares every thirty minutes like clockwork to keep the audience entertained, while Aster's sophomore effort essentially asks you to be along for the ride or get out. Midsommar constantly builds a sense of impending dread and anxiety of what comes next as the audience acts, much like the non-Swedish characters, as tourists to this insane and twisted culture with their backward rituals.

But that is an outsider's perspective. To the people involved in the "cult," this is normal. Midsommar is strangely content in normalizing its horror and making the audience, who is a stranger to this level of brutality and violence, feel like they grow accustomed to it along with some of the leads. It is here where I find that Midsommar excels most and is at its most unique: the violence and horrible aspects are bizarrely wholesome and feel naturalistic to the environment and this (almost) otherworldly place.

It is heightened by the cinematography, as well. Shots float with both dread and wonder, as well as trip-out during sequences where characters are "influenced." I really enjoyed many of the subtle, non-flashy long takes and creative camera movements, both of which seem more focused and stronger than Hereditary's as Aster becomes more experienced behind the camera. Environments bugging out and moving with the drugs means that some of the stranger (or even more mundane) elements become trippier and even more distant and otherworldly. It all has this very magical and whimsical, yet frightening and disgusting, overtone to it.

Pugh's performance is incredible. One of the most accurate portrayals of grief and the depression following a catastrophic event I have seen in a long time, certainly on par with Collette and will, unfortunately, likely end up just as forgotten come awards time.

Some of the earlier sequences are sickening, particularly the opening sequence and the first ceremony but, as I said, as the film goes on and on the entire horror of it all almost seems to subside. The viewer gets broken down, exhausted, and is nearly driven mad before the inhabitants of the commune share in that pain. Others begin to help bear the burden of unbelievable grief, and it is in that where we begin to find new life.
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10 out of 10

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