Starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper
Director: Ari Aster
Running Time: 147 mins
Midsommar is an American/Swedish film about a group of friends who travel to a commune in rural Sweden to view the midsummer festivities, but despite the warm welcome upon arrival, the bizarre nature of the commune’s traditions leaves them feeling uneasy about the situation.
Ari Aster came out of the blocks with a hugely successful horror in the form of Hereditary just last year, and now takes his intense, bold and psychotic brand of horror up a gear with the bizarre, disturbing and even rather nasty Midsommar. For me, while it doesn’t quite match Hereditary’s dramatic depth and power, Midsommar is a far more entertaining and exciting watch, with the sheer strangeness of the holiday from hell growing and growing to insane proportions throughout, often overcoming the need for anything quite as dramatically enthralling as Hereditary proved at its best moments.
Now, the first thing to know is that I’m not a big horror fan. Of course, a truly great horror movie can entertain and impress even the least enthusiastic of viewers, but it’s a genre that I’ve often struggled to see the real appeal of, with my frustrations about Hereditary coming about as a result of it featuring too much horror, and too little drama.
Midsommar, in comparison to Hereditary, has even more horror, and even more gruesome, nasty and intensely disturbing twists and turns, so you’d think that I would have liked it even less. However, in some weirdly twisted way, Midsommar’s sheer eccentricity and off-the-wall horror antics actually make it a darkly fun watch right the way through, and while that definitely takes away from any dramatic power that the film is trying to craft, it does make for a much easier-going and simply entertaining watch.
It may be nearly two and a half hours long, and it may move at a real snail’s pace, but what works well about Midsommar is its capacity for almost hilariously strange shocks, starting off in exhilarating fashion with an opening sequence that took Hereditary over a whole act to get to, and then dragging you into a deliriously weird world of cults and terrifying rituals that never ceases to disturb.
What’s even better about the film’s strange commune setting is how it plays on the very relatable feeling of being out of your comfort zone, and being further encouraged by locals to join in. If you’ve ever been abroad and been forced to eat a weird food or take part in some traditional ritual that seems ludicrous to you, then you’ll identify perfectly with the feeling our leads face here, and as things go from bad to worse, the film very cleverly incites that fear you’ve always had when being forced to try something new.
So, if you’re in the mood for two and a half hours of totally weird horror antics that go to lengths that you really can’t imagine, then Midsommar is the film for you.
However, while the film’s bold, audacious and frankly gruesome style is actually one of its most fun assets, it also fails to impress or surprise on any deeper level, and it’s just that which makes that very style feel a little gratuitous, and lacking in the intelligence or depth of what the best horror movies are able to deliver.
I may not have liked Hereditary all that much, but it had moments of drama that were beyond devastating, with stunning emotional power being delivered in a punchy, aggressive fashion. Midsommar, on the other hand, while a more fun and ultimately more palatable watch, doesn’t have any real drama of which to speak.
It starts off with a striking opening sequence, reminiscent of the fantastic and shocking opening to the ultimately lacklustre Vox Lux, but following that, the majority of the drama and plot development is simply focused on what the hell is going to happen next in this weird commune, without ever really bringing in any interesting themes or external personal drama to add an extra layer of intrigue to the film.
As a result, I can’t say that Midsommar is the perfect horror movie by any means. It may prove more fun and easy-going than Hereditary, with a darkly insane and gruesome brand of horror, but it doesn’t ever have the dramatic depth or intrigue to impress on any other level, ultimately proving a bizarrely entertaining watch, but little more, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4.