Josh Davenport’s review published on Letterboxd:
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Horror films that have a bunch of jump scares of a dude in a mask that hunts people don’t really scare me anymore. If anything, they just annoy me and make me resent the genre. A horror film like “Midsommar,” that has few jump scares and an atmospheric, creepy vibe with realistic and disturbing situations that explore the worst parts of humanity, those are the horror films that I like. This film is like the last 10 minutes of “The Wicker Man” and “Hereditary” mixed together, except as an entire film made up of misery, anxiety and uneasiness. Ari Aster has mastered the horror genre, or at least what I want from it, by putting the viewer through long, heartbreakingly terrifying situations that exceed past the box that horror films find themselves in, and creating a truly unique and unsettling experience.
“Midsommar” is a film that won’t scare you outright or immediately. It’s one that takes its time to build its universe and its atmosphere. We get to spend time with the main characters and we develop actual relationships with them, and every situation and piece of dialogue has meaning. Yes, this film is almost 2 and a half hours long, but it’s one of those films that needs every second. Never does the film feel self indulgent or like it’s in on its own joke, and the main reason that this film exists is to give the viewer an experience, whether that be positive or negative. The cinematography is energetic, the music is immersive, and the set design is almost out of a fairytale. Every facet of this film works together to create an unholy experience that will shake you to the core, and is ultimately one that is more terrifying than other because it could actually happen.
Florence Pugh gives one of the most genuine and sympathetic performances I’ve seen on screen in a long time. I really empathized with her character and felt especially bad for her during pretty much every scene. She was really the only fully likable character in this movie, the only one who didn’t seem to have any flaws that made you want to dislike her. Her relationship with Jack Reynor’s character was a bit frustrating, but it all made sense by the end of the film. My biggest issue with this film is the level of scariness that it reaches, or I guess that it fails to reach. The film does a great job of slowly escalating in creepiness and horror type events, but after a certain point in the film, I feel like the level of those events kind of plateau. There’s definite flashes of true terror in some moments throughout the film, but I feel like after the third or fourth disturbing thing that happens, the shock value of the ending kind of leaves and it just matches the craziness of the rest of the film. I think the ending didn’t fully provide the gut punch feeling that Aster was attempting to reach, but it was still one that is absolutely revolting. Hours later and I’m still thinking about it, but not in a way that I won’t be able to sleep because of it like the end of “Hereditary” but more because of what actually happened causes my mind to wander.
I can see how some people would be let down by this film, especially if they were expecting it to be more in the vein of “Hereditary,” but I think anyone that goes into this with an open mind and the idea that they want to have a wild experience will have a really unique time. I don’t think this film is for everyone, and everyone is going to want something different from a horror film, but this film hit all of the notes for me. I will say I was let down with the final act of the film, but that doesn’t take away from the rest of it. A part of me was concerned that I was giving to much credence to the spectacular showmanship and pageantry of the film, but the more I think about it, I do genuinely believe that this film is something special and creepy based off of the quality of the film alone. Ari Aster is making his name in the horror genre, one film at a time, and if he keeps on this track he will easily go down as one of the greatest to ever touch the genre.