Ari Aster is a filmmaker that should be celebrated for decades to come, especially because he is someone who is not afraid to take risks when it comes to crafting his art. Instead of following the traditional filmmaking techniques that many other filmmakers use, Aster uses his own methods in an effort to create something wholly unique, original, and fresh.
With his directorial debut feature Hereditary, he proved that he could tell a beautifully dark and haunting story about grief and family relationships, and one that felt disturbingly real and grounded.
Hereditary was a film that completely took me by surprise and left a lasting impression on me that I will have for the rest of my life. Every single aspect of that picture I adore, and it is quite simply my favorite film of all time. So to say that I was excited about Aster’s follow-up would be a colossal understatement.
In Midsommar, we follow Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh) and Christian Hughes (Jack Reynor) as a couple who are going through serious relationship issues. Dani recently went through a horrific family tragedy and has since been on edge.
In an effort to try to get away from their worries and to rekindle their love for one another, the two embark on a trip to Sweden for the midsummer celebration, an event that only happens every ninety years. When they get there however, they begin to realize that this trip was not such a good idea.
By far the biggest snub at this year’s Academy Awards show was Toni Collette not being nominated for her mesmerizing performance as Annie Graham in the aforementioned Hereditary. Everything about that role was so haunting and emotionally powerful that it was quite a shock when the Australian actress’ name was nowhere to be found on the Best Actress nominee list. We can only hope that the same thing will not occur with Florence Pugh.
This is without a doubt the best performance she has given to date, and it is additionally one of the best performances I have seen in years. From the opening frames of Midsommar, we see that Dani is emotionally distraught and does not have anybody to express her feelings to, as her boyfriend Christian has been incredibly distant toward her and barely spends time with her anymore. For a large portion of the running time, Pugh has to act with nothing more than her facial expressions, and she does so almost effortlessly. There are some sequences here involving her character that I am never going to forget because they were just so riveting and terrifying.
Speaking of Dani’s boyfriend Christian, Jack Reynor is also remarkable as the character. Ever since watching him as Brendan Lawlor in the feel-good indie sleeper Sing Street, I have always wanted Reynor to get a truly big role where he would be fully able to showcase his acting talents, and Midsommar is definitely that film. Much like Pugh, he has to deliver tons of emotion with facial expressions and he is great at it.
When it comes to the cinematography, it is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen in horror cinema. Shot by director of photography Pawel Pogorzelski, who previously shot Aster’s directorial debut, every frame of this film has something interesting to look at. Whether it is gorgeous, lush treetops or mountains, or something more sinister such as fire, every shot is meticulously crafted. After a while, it almost feels as if you are being hypnotized because of how breathtaking everything looks. This is the closest you will ever get to being put in a dreamlike state with cinema.
Since this is a horror film, you would expect there to be a ton of creepy and effective scares, and there gratefully are plenty of those to be found here. However, do not go into Midsommar expecting it to be a traditional horror movie with a plethora of jumpscares or sudden loud noises every few seconds, because if you do, you will be immensely disappointed. Much like Hereditary, this film does not have even one jumpscare or sudden loud noise in sight. Instead, all of the scares are things that quite simply make you feel uneasy and sick to your stomach. Certain images that are shown here are downright horrifying, and will make even some of the most hardened horror lovers feel disturbed.
A big reason as to why these scenes of pure dread work so well is due to the insanely entrancing score by The Haxan Cloak. The first time we hear his score, it gives off an impression of dread and hopelessness that carries throughout the remainder of the film and is one of the best horror scores I have heard in years.
By far, one of my favorite elements to Midsommar is how almost everybody will more than likely have their own interpretation of what the ending means. The final few frames of this film are so bizarre and insane and will leave viewers in awe of what they just watched. In fact, writer/director Ari Aster and Florence Pugh both have different opinions on what the ending means. There are going to be dozens of fan theories circulating around the internet, not just about the ending, but the entire film and I honestly cannot wait to hear what other people’s opinions are.
Just like Ari Aster’s previous effort, Midsommar is a beautifully haunting and deliciously evil tale about grief and relationships, and will go down as one of the all-time best horror films.
Overall Grade: A+
MPAA Rating: Rated R for disturbing ritualistic violence and grisly images, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language
Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Will Poulter
Directed by: Ari Aster
Distributed by: A24
Running Time: 147 minutes