Horror Movie Review: Midsommar (2019)

“How long do we have to stand?”

“Until it’s right to sit.”

Midsommar is a 2019 folk horror film written and directed by Ari Aster.

College student Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh) is traumatized after her sister Terri commits murder-suicide and kills their parents and herself by filling their home with carbon monoxide. The incident further strains Dani’s relationship with her emotionally distant boyfriend, Christian Hughes (Jack Reynor), an anthropology graduate student.

The following summer, Dani learns that Christian and his friends, Mark and Josh (Will Poulter and William Jackson Harper), have been invited by their Swedish friend, Pelle Vilhelm Blomgren), to attend a midsummer celebration at Pelle’s ancestral commune, the Hårga, in Hälsingland. Pelle explains that this iteration of the celebration only occurs every ninety years. Christian had not told Dani about the trip, and the two argue. In an attempt to patch things up, Christian reluctantly invites Dani to come along, to which she agrees.

The group flies to Sweden and arrive at the commune, where they meet Simon and Connie, an English couple invited by Pelle’s communal brother Ingemar. He offers the group psilocybin, and under the influence of the drug, Dani has hallucinations of Terri.

Tensions rise after the group witnesses an ättestupa, where two commune elders commit senicide by leaping from a clifftop. When the male elder survives the fall, the cult mimics his wails of agony and crushes his skull with a mallet. Cult elder Siv explains that this is a perfectly normal expression of Hårga’s views on death, stating that every member must do the same at the age of 72. The scene deeply disturbs the group, particularly Dani, but they decide to stay, both at the behest of Pelle and because midsummer traditions are the subject of Josh’s thesis. Simon and Connie, however, decide to leave. As Connie is gathering her things, an elder tells her that Simon has already left for the train station without her. Confused and frustrated, Connie decides to leave on her own. Later, a woman’s scream is heard in the distance.

Christian decides to also do his thesis on the Hårga, creating a rift between him and Josh. Josh attempts to solicit more information on the commune’s ancient runic practices, which are based on paintings made by a member conceived through incest, whom they consider an oracle. After Mark unwittingly urinates on an ancestral tree and incites the fury of the cult, he is lured away by a female member to whom he had previously mentioned he was attracted. That night, Josh sneaks into a temple to photograph the cult’s sacred runic text. He is distracted by a partially nude man wearing Mark’s skinned face and legs, and is hit over the head with a mallet, after which his body is dragged out of the temple.

Is there any method to the madness or are they simply just an evil cult? Watch and find out.

Considering the controversial ending of Hereditary, I anticipated that Ari Aster would tone it down this time and choose a different path. But instead, he took the arty, culty ending of Hereditary and made it into a full length movie. So, if you didn’t enjoy that, I suggest you perhaps give Midsommar a miss as it’s that turned up to 100.

Midsommar is a weird movie. It is. But under that layer of strangeness, is brilliance. A visceral and emotional movie, Midsommar has many raw moments that evoke a multitude of emotions. Designed to confuse and bamboozle you, just like our main characters, it takes you on a journey of wonder and horror.

Not only is the cinematography amazing, each shot stunning, but the acting is top notch and extremely immersive. I never felt a moment that I wasn’t right there with them, experiencing each level of fear and delight. Florence Pugh (Dani Ardor)’s performance is absolutely incredible. The effects are realistic and coupled with distressing imagery, you’re in for a disturbingly beautiful world.

I read that Ari Aster wrote the script as he was going through a breakup, hence the main plot of the movie. I have to say that I was definitely invested in that story and it was well written, leaving space for me to easily see each sides’ story – even if Christian is 99% a bastard.

My main criticism is how predictable the movie is. You know 150% that the cult is going to be evil. I’ve never seen a horror movie where the cult isn’t evil. You can predict what they’re going to do, even while blinded by all the strange events and rituals. Additonally, the dumb American stereotype got to me a little. Why would you piss on a sacred tree? It’s a cult, you fool!

Overall, if you love Swedish chanting it’s a 10/10. An immersive, gorgeous and disturbing movie that will leave you in thought after the credits roll. Very little rewatchability though…

  • The Final Score - 7/10
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