By Bradley Lane
Midsommar is a horror movie that shuns genre convention. Nearly all horror movies drape their scenery in darkness to hide the horrors that lurk within the blackness of night. It capitalizes on the fear of the unknown by hiding information from the audience; but what is scarier? A monster concealed by shadows, invisible to the naked eye, or the horrific knowledge of being fully aware and cognizant of the threat in front of you? If this is the question, Midsommar is the answer. Directed and written by up-and-coming horror superstar, Ari Aster, Midsommar makes clear that Aster is here, and here to stay.
Ari Aster exploded onto the horror and arthouse scene with his debut feature film, Hereditary and recently followed up Midsommar with the confusing and ambitious Beau is Afraid. Hereditary did not just shock me, it left me utterly speechless. I had to subject myself to multiple viewings to come to grips with the film. It was overflowing with soon-to-be iconic horror imagery, immaculately detailed character writing and rich and impactful themes. Chief among these themes are explorations of family, sacrifice, traumatization and ultimately, how we process grief. When all was said and done, Hereditary was not only one of my favorite movies of the year, but also a cornerstone in the modern horror canon.
Now, Aster’s film focuses on Florence Pugh’s character, Dani, suffering through an unfathomably traumatic loss. In an attempt to find closure, support, or even escapism, she embarks on a trip to rural Sweden to celebrate an annual Midsommar festival with her boyfriend and his friends from his university’s anthropology department. However, soon after Pelle, played by Vilhelm Blomgren, leads the group to his small village in Sweden it becomes very apparent that they are in way over their heads.
Midsommar is a profoundly unique film, not in story or plot so much as its painstakingly detailed visuals and incomparable tone. Throughout most of the film our protagonists are on some sort of psychoactive substances that influence the look of the film by portraying the character’s specific type of drug-fueled subjectivity. Subtle distortion of the colorful, brightly lit background foliage and even slight facial manipulation put the audience in an uncomfortable perspective throughout the film. It never reveals itself as scary necessarily, but rather defines its horror through feelings of uncomfortability, paranoia and severe anxiety. No doubt feelings inspired by bad trips on psychedelic substances. These feelings build into a mind-bending final scene sure to stick with you for days after viewing.
Despite some wishy-washy character motivation (that actually gets fixed in the director’s cut Blu-ray), Midsommar stands as one of the most visually striking, and emotionally resonant films of the last decade. Midsommar is available to stream entirely for free with a library card on Kanopy and look out for it rereleasing at select AMC theaters later this month. – 4.5/5