Review: ‘Midsommar,’ Always Check Reviews Before Traveling

Following the success of last year’s Hereditary (which I also reviewed, and you can find here in case you missed it) Ari Aster has taken a second stab at the horror genre with Midsommar – and sticking with his m.o., he also wrote and directed it. Just like Hereditary, Midsommar spends time examining human relationships and how grief can affect people, you know – before all hell breaks loose. Dani (Florence Pugh), is shaken to the core as a horrific tragedy befalls her sister and parents. She begins to rely even more on her dumbass boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), who unbeknownst to Dani has been questioning their relationship for quite some time. Dani and Christian have been dating for 3.5 or 4 years, depending on who you ask. They are both graduate students – allowing us to presume that they are relatively intelligent (spoiler alert: this presumption gets adequately tested as the film progresses).

One of Christian’s graduate school friends – Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) is from a small community in Sweden. Pelle wants to bring Christian and their other graduate school friends Josh (William Jackson Harper) and Mark (Will Poulter) with him for his hometown’s Midsommar celebration. Christian halfheartedly extends the invitation to Dani, never thinking she would actually be accompanying the group. Of course she does, and the five graduate students find themselves in rural Sweden. Almost immediately, the group gets offered hallucinogenic mushrooms which kicks off a series of events and, at times, causes the group to struggle with distinguishing reality from fantasy. As the midsommar festival continues and the group of friends witness more and more of the local rituals, the sense of dread in the characters, and film, grows exponentially.

The best parts of Midsommar were the visuals. Unlike the dark and dreariness we saw throughout Hereditary, Midsommar is full of color – the flowers, symbols, buildings – all bright and seemingly welcoming. That is just a surface level facade, as nearly everything has an underlying sinister element to it.  Aster certainly has a unique film style that some viewers will be drawn to and others turned off from. After having seen his past two films, his style is very apparent and he hasn’t shied away from it yet, and I see no reason that he will in future works. Most of my favorite moments of the film were scene transitions and camera angles, a few so powerful that they will certainly be what I remember most from Midsommar. While Aster does employ numerous artistic shots, many of which I enjoyed tremendously, there were times it seemed like he is so focused on trying to capture imaginative moments that he was sacrificing important aspects of the narrative and plot development. The film’s soundtrack is also successful, and while it reminded me of Hereditary, it isn’t able to quite reach the levels of its predecessor.

The film is quite lengthy, clocking in around 2 hours and 20 minutes, but overall there were only small moments that dragged on. Pugh gives a strong performance and is the standout of the film. Just as Collette was able to capture a wide range of emotion in Hereditary that really helped drive the film forward, we see the same from Pugh here. I did get serious Wicker Man vibes while watching Midsommar, and normally that is not a good thing. Midsommar is not the best horror movie I’ve seen in recent years, and I do not believe it was even better than Hereditary, but Aster is able to take the audience on an interesting journey – one that is worth watching and is a fairly successful sophomoric film.

Rating: 3 out of 5