A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown’s fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.
I find it quite hard to define Ari Aster‘s films. Last year’s feature debut Hereditary was hands down one of my favourite films of 2018 and gave me nightmares for a solid week. It was horror from a completely unique angle, so when the first trailer for this movie dropped, my heart rate rose in anticipation of the trauma to come.
I’m on the other side of it now, having actually seen it and I have two immediate thoughts: 1) FUCK and 2) When can I see it again? It’s incredible, really and for many reasons. First up, it looks magnificent. All the terror happens in broad daylight – which makes it all the more unsettling. I mean, day time is supposed to be when we can take a breather from whatever horror is in store for us. Bad things only happen when the sun sets, right?
The Swedish countryside is breathtaking (though actually it was filmed on location in Hungary) and the colour pops like no other. At just shy of two and a half hours run time, it’s no joke but the pacing works perfectly. I didn’t want it to end as it built up to its odd and frankly eerie crescendo. Honestly, it isn’t a film that will make you jump out of your skin at every turn but it will haunt you.
Dani (Pugh) and her boyfriend Christian (Reynor) are a couple just going through the motions. Dani seems to have a drama queen reputation, which is exacerbated ten fold when she receives a distressing message from her sister Teri, who lives with bipolar disorder. Christian, encouraged wholeheartedly by his buddies, Josh (Harper), Mark (Will Poulter) and Swedish Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), is on the verge of breaking up with her when a life-changing event occurs.
The couple stay together and when Dani finds out her boyfriend and pals are planning a trip to Pelle’s homeland to attend a once-in-90-years Midsommar festival, she’s invited. Reluctantly. Off the friends go to Sweden to join in the festivities, guests of Pelle’s ancestral commune, the Hårga. Will the vulnerable Dani find peace here? That is the question.
If you’ve read anything about Midsommar or seen the trailer then you can probably surmise that it’s not all flower crowns and sun-basking, although those things do feature prominently. I won’t say anymore because going in with as little information as possible is going to be for the better.
Florence Pugh is wonderful, an incredible talent I just want to watch forever. Dani is a complex character in an uncomfortable position, fully-aware something has changed within her relationship. She’s haunted by recent events and curious/repelled by the rituals unfolding before her.
The constant feeling of dread throughout is stoked by all the mysterious potions being passed around and there are some incredibly beautiful and trippy scenes of hallucinogenic drug taking that take me back to my own experiences. I think Aster captures them perfectly. He also injects darkly comic moments into the most absurd scenarios and it’s much needed.
It’s all just a very creepy fever dream and I love it. The rest is up to you.