A remote Swedish village is the setting for this folk horror from Hereditary director Ari Aster. While Aaron Yap notes it doesn’t completely land, he’s got time for Midsommar‘s sun-kissed, at times goofy, creepiness.
Confession: Ari Aster’s Hereditary shook me up so bad last year that I still haven’t mustered up the courage to revisit it. And to be honest, I’ll probably rewatch his follow-up Midsommar first. It is, however, arguably a lesser movie, an obnoxiously protracted, sometimes maddeningly telegraphed folk-nightmare lacking the fierce, clammy grief-horror-grip of its predecessor.
But even if Aster overreaches this time round, toiling towards a cathartic exit to a disintegrating relationship that doesn’t completely land, it’s still quite the journey getting there: hilariously off-kilter, visually striking, deliriously inspired in parts, and yes, stark-raving mad.
Purely as an exercise in calibrating insidious terror in open, broad daylight, Midsommar is first-rate. Apart from an opening murder-suicide that harkens back to Hereditary’s gruesome family tragedy, the film operates as a fascinating tonal inverse, swapping dread-filled chamber-drama turmoils for sun-kissed, at times goofy, creepiness.
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Again, Aster relishes, and excels in the measured build, tracking, with watchful psychological acuity, American couple-on-the-rocks Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) and their friends as they travel to a seemingly idyllic Swedish village and are forced to accustom themselves with a centuries-old pagan festival.
Enhanced by some pointedly weird and gorgeous production design, Midsommar’s meandering descent into crazy town makes for a deftly disturbing viewing experience for at least two-thirds. The pay-off isn’t quite as strong, but the bizarre rituals, escalating in their sinister banality and the destabilising impact they have on Dani and Christian’s already-mentally fragile state, won’t be forgotten anytime soon.