Ari Aster's first film "Hereditary" was one of the best breakout horror films last year. Does "Midsommar," Aster's film about a group of Americans who visit a Swedish summer festival and realize far too late that there's something sinister lying beneath the village's sunny veneer, measure up? Here's what the reviews have to say.
Like 'Hereditary,' 'Midsommar' Examines Grief Through The Prism Of Horror
Kicking-off with a horrifying tragedy set against a dark, snowy backdrop, Midsommar promptly sends a group of Americans to the sun-drenched world of a secluded Swedish village. The group consists of Dani (Florence Pugh) and her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), along with William Jackson Harper as the studious Mark, and Will Poulter as the laugh-out-loud funny Josh.
The Americans see the outing as an exciting vacation, but soon they're sucked into a ceremony they can't escape.
The World Crafted By Aster And Cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski Is Eerie And Hypnotic
Aster and cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski do marvelously well to suggest a creeping unease behind this verdant, sun-dappled utopia in these early scenes, where the oddities strewn throughout the village – the ancient runes, the unexplained grizzly bear in a wooden cage, the banners and frescoes depicting some very outré rituals — feel all the more ominous for being hidden in plain sight.
It's a complete contrast to the impenetrable shadows of Aster's Hereditary, and makes for an overall surreal experience. Audiences are so used to horror being drenched in darkness that they're likely to be caught completely off-guard by Midsommar's bright and sunny horror.
But The Movie Suffers Occasionally From A Predictable Plot
On the one hand, Aster has created such an evocative premise, calling to mind previous horror movies about cults and pagan ceremonies, that it floods the viewer with queasy possibilities of what may follow. But on the other, Midsommar raises expectations that it sometimes fails to satisfy. Dreadful things are in store but, with some notable (and marvellously chilling) exceptions, they frequently play out in typically alarming ways.
Aster isn't terribly interested in reinventing the wheel when it comes to the structure of his Wicker Man riff, so although astute audiences may not know exactly how it's going to happen, we all have a general idea that this whole thing is leading somewhere violent and disturbing, and the interminable tension eventually gives way to mere impatience.
Florence Pugh's Performance Is What Anchors The Movie
There's not a weak link in the bunch, and Pugh turns in a fairly devastating performance.
Pugh is extraordinary as she delineates Dani's warring impulses, between the animal ache and the pragmatic person who still remains. Her performance is a fine companion piece to Toni Collette's in Hereditary: breakneck and yet measured, a comedy of human foible and messy impulse.
While The Male Characters In The Movie Are Less Well-Realized
Aster's characters have been relegated to broad caricatures we've seen before: self-involved young Americans fated to stumble into a situation beyond their control, and a world keen on exploiting that weakness. Only Dani hovers above these familiar beats, largely due to Pugh[.]
There Is Plenty Of Gore As Well As WTF Moments For Horror Fans
Aster unleashes a hodgepodge of haunting pageantries and ritualistic prayer, outrageous fertility rituals, and plenty of psychedelic dance numbers. The WTF quotient is high, but not without cause.
What follows is a series of grave encounters, clashing identities, and bloody body horror that rivals the depths of depravity Aster demonstrated in Hereditary. If that movie's shocking head scene made you squirmy, Midsommar is here to annihilate your dreams with even more despicable imagery.
And For A Horror Movie, It's Surprisingly Funny
[Midsommar] is unquestionably a scary movie. And yet, it's also surprisingly hilarious. For 2 hours and 20 minutes, Aster takes audiences on a journey through a shockingly crowd-pleasing story that blends both laugh-out-loud humor and mind-blowing weirdness.
Perhaps what's most surprising about Midsommar is also how damn funny it can be. Poulter's Matt as the boorish American is specifically there to laugh atand not with. Harper's Josh is the pseudo-intellectual who wants to impress everyone but fails. And Reynor's Christian is impotent without a woman in his life, a pathetic man baby who needs help in what may be one of the most awkward yet arresting sex scenes.
Despite Its Imperfections, 'Midsommar' Is Still A Worthy Sojourn And An Audacious Undertaking
Never as impactful, as emotional, or as frightening as the director's debut – nor nearly as much of a mindf–k as any of its most obvious precursors ("Kill List," "The Wicker Man," "Mother!") — "Midsommar" nonetheless seems engineered to draw fiercely polarized reactions. In truth, it's neither the masterpiece nor the disaster that the film's most vocal viewers are bound to claim. Rather, it's an admirably strange, thematically muddled curiosity from a talented filmmaker who allows his ambitions to outpace his execution.
This film will alienate a lot of people (much like Hereditary, its audience exit polling is likely going to be abysmal), but there's a wonderfully audacious confidence to the way Midsommar is built. Its mannered style and sureness of theme, if not always execution, rattles you like a shake to the shoulders.
Photographed with extreme care, the film sometimes wears its ambitions on its sleeve. Dani has a nightmare full of what might be called Kubrickian visions while huddled beneath a blanket whose hexagonal decorations look like a cool-hued homage to the carpet in The Shining. But Midsommar remains too entertained by its exotic rituals to reach the abyss-staring quality of that tale. More unsettling than frightening, it's still a trip worth taking.
Midsommar is an intermittently impressive and frustrating film, but worth watching for every single one of its flaws. You can't come this close to greatness without trying harder than, frankly, most filmmakers would bother, and the ambition translates into a strange, gorgeous, complicated experience.
Pre-order your tickets here.