Between Hereditary and Midsommar, someone should really be checking in on Ari Aster on the daily.
Midsommer is a new A24 movie that comes from Aster, who both wrote and directed the film. Like Jordan Peele with Us, Aster is making his sophomore film debut this year, with Hereditary having hit theaters only a little over a year ago.
The man has certainly been busy, to say the least.
In one of most jaw-dropping, ‘Oh, so we’re going there, huh?’ kind of scenes that you’re likely going to see in 2019, Midsommar opens with the character of Dani Ardor (Fighting With My Family’s Florence Pugh) after she’s just received some truly terrible news.
I won’t say what, exactly, that news is, even though it is literally shown in pretty unsettling detail within the first five minutes of the movie, but it’s bad. It’s real, real bad.
Before all of that went down, Dani was stuck in an unhealthy romance with a fellow graduate student named Christian Hughes (Sing Street’s Jack Reynor). Their relationship isn’t toxic, outwardly abusive or anything like that — it’s just that the two of them really aren’t good for each other, as Christian’s laziness often plays upon Dani’s insecurities.
While they might have been on the verge of breaking up before the incident, they’ve now kind of stuck themselves in this situation as we jump six months into the future only to find that they are still together.
Things haven’t improved between the two of them during that time, however, as Christian somehow failed to have mention that he’s headed to Europe for a month and a half until the last possible moment.
While Dani knows she should be angry, she also knows that she needs a trip like this. Things have been easy lately — and while she almost never explicitly talks about what happened, it’s always there in the back of her mind.
So, she gets Christian to awkwardly invite her along and the two of them, along with Christian’s friends Josh (William Jackson Harper), Mark (Will Poulter) and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), board a plane that takes them to Sweden.
This isn’t you’re typical Roman holiday, though. The five of them are headed to a small little norther commune called Hårga for a special midsummer celebration that only occurs once every 90 years.
No, it might not sound like a normal vacation for most 20-year-olds, but Pelle grew up in the area, Josh is planning to write his anthology thesis on the event and Mark just wants to do as many drugs as he can while he’s there, so they all have somewhat of a good reason for wanting to go.
Upon arriving in Hårga, Dani quickly discovers that it might not be as fun and relaxing as she imagined. Sure, all the people appear friendly and there’s plenty to do, but there’s something off about the whole place — something that’s undeniably creepy.
No, it’s not The Wicker Man and it’s not Apostle, I swear.
Maybe it’s the obscure paintings on the wall or maybe it’s all the highly religious traditions and customs, but Dani quickly begins to feel uncomfortable and feels unsafe. While the other three either subtly or directly ignore these requests, they eventually begin to realize Dani might have been right as it turns out there really might be something pretty disturbing going on in Hårga.
Okay, fine, maybe there is a good amount of The Wicker Man in Midsommer, but oh well. You’re allowed to like both movies, I say.
Midsommar might very well be one of the best horror movies of 2019 thus far, right alongside Us and Child’s Play. That being said, unlike both Us and Child’s Play, this is something that I’d hesitate to recommend to anyone and everyone I know because you really have to know what you’re getting yourself in for with Midsommar.
If you’ve seen Hereditary, you might be prepared as both movies deal with similar content. Aster is a director who likes to scare you, but he also likes to explore deeper themes of grief and tragedy within those scares. Hereditary dealt with that in Toni Collete’s reaction to what happens to her daughter, while Midsommar focuses on Dani dealing with the aftermath of the previously mentioned incident.
Midsommar then takes it one step farther by adding this additional component of romantic relationships on the whole thing, creating a whole new field for Aster to explore — a field that, as you might imagine, winds up being pretty messed up. Aster’s a big fan of setting these things up in a serious form and throwing these bloody and grotesque surprises at you, and that’s never been more prevalent than with Midsommar.
For some, that’ll be too disturbing or maybe even too unfocused, as a lot of Midsommar just revolves around the four American characters finding themselves stuck in different off-putting scenarios.
I, however, found it ridiculously entertaining and, yes, even funny. Midsommar comes in at 2 hours and 27 minutes long, but there’s never a moment that feels dull or wasted. Most of the film comes from the absurd situations the main characters are put in and, after a while, you can’t help but start laughing at how flat-out ridiculous these things are.
Aster wisely intends these moments for comedy, of course, as it once again just provides another chance for him to pull the rug from under the audience, but the way he does it is just so masterful and committed.
It also helps that we find ourselves so in-tune with these characters. You might not like all of them — Christian is certainly a prick, and you’d be forgiven for saying that Mark gets on your nerves every now and again — but you’ll certainly understand them and the way they interact with things. Half of the “fun” in Midsommar comes from seeing how each of them will react to the things that they discover and the different directions that then takes them in.
Ultimately, this is still Pugh’s movie, as she’s the one leading the charge with most of the heavy lifting. She’s up to the challenge, though, as Midsommar is a great example of why Pugh should remain in Hollywood for a long, long time.
The other thing that really can’t be overstated enough is just how well Aster directs this movie. Whether it’s the bright colors, the use of daylight or the Wes Anderson-like symmetry, he’s very purposefully framing Midsommar in a way so that it DOESN’T look like a horror movie, despite it being one. Throw in some exception editing (the transition between a bathroom in a house to a bathroom in a plane is god-level) and a very Annihilation-sounding score to top it all off and Aster has once again proven himself to be a director you’re going to want to continue to watch.
Midsommar may not be AS original or AS scary as you might have built it up to be in your head — they borrow from a lot of other cult horror movies in here (including Hereditary, as there was one point where I was waiting for someone to yell ‘Hail, Paimon!’) and I don’t think there’s anything in here that’ll keep you up for nights on end. Yet, it’s still a wildly original, a wildly creepy and a wildly entertaining flick that deserves to be seen on the big screen. I’m not entirely sure how it’s going to hold up to multiple re-watches just because of the value that Midsommar places on the unknown, but there’s just too much going on both on and under the surface to not give it a chance.
Watch the trailer for Midsommar here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the movie!