Midsommar (2019) – Ari Aster

Writer/director Ari Aster’s follow-up to his unnerving horror film, Hereditary, is another menacing, and ominous story, Midsommar.

Florence Pugh stars as Dani, a traumatised young woman, who is dealing with personal grief, and a crumbling love life, when she learns that her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor) and a number of his buddies, some are doing it for work, others are just doing it for the fun, are going to Sweden to study some of the midsommar rituals of a remote pagan cult.

From their arrival in the idyllic locations (shot so all of its colours are washed out, to remind us of the almost ever-present sun at that point in the year), things aren’t all they seem, and there feels like an underlying threat in every frame, as Aster doles out his story over a two and a half hour slow burn.

There are strange events, but what’s real, what’s imagined, as the group seems to be kept in almost a permanently drugged state, but that doesn’t stop each and every one of them running into trouble. Whether it’s American ignorance, sense of entitlement, or simply obliviousness, sooner or later each member of the group, but for Dani, makes an error that leads to a horrific climax.

Pugh is nothing short of fantastic, Aster lets entire moments play out just on her face, and she doesn’t seem to be afraid to put every emotion she’s feeling into her performance.

Dani deserves better than what she has in Christian, who treats her horribly throughout the film, looked at literally, Christianity has treated women terribly throughout the ages, while a number of other religions, have empowered them. In fact, almost everyone treats her badly, except for the members of the cult, and even as she senses and sees her dead family around her at various points in the film, she seems to have found a new home.

Aster’s slow burn visual style demands the viewer pay attention, otherwise, you miss the experience of the film. Whether it’s things moving on the massive dining table, half glimpsed visions, or horrific details hiddin in the gore, there’s a reason for every shot, every frame, every character beat, and all of it is foreshadowed and builds to a climax that may be freeing for Dani, but is horrific for those she travels with.

The apparent simplicity of the production design lends a reality to the film. Despite the things that are happening, they all seem so grounded, because everything feels so authentic. It’s very dark, and wonderfully foreboding film that delivers that Aster feel of menace and keeps the viewer captivated.

Makes me want to go back and re-watch Hereditary again. I honestly hope Aster gives us another horror film sometime in the future…

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