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Midsommar (2019) - Movie Review

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Midsommar (2019)

Here’s a bit of life advice. Never trust the remote village that no one has ever heard of, especially if it puts on a pagan celebration that even fewer are aware of. I promise, you’ll thank me later for this.

And here’s another little something: if that remote village you so confidently visited against this old sage’s advice is decorated with beautiful tapestries and secret imagery, please, please, pay attention to the messages written within those tomes. You’ll thank me for that too.

"The more time you spend thinking about Midsommar, the more power you give it"


 

Of course our main characters in Ari Aster’s Midsommar – the highly-anticipated follow-up to his debut effort Hereditary – fail to heed that lesson to a disastrous outcome for them but a delightfully unsettling trip into tragedy, dishonesty, and revenge for us.

This is a story about twenty-something Dani (Florence Pugh, Fighting With My Family) and her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor, Macbeth) who are trying to move beyond a recent tragedy in Dani’s family. She is a bit insecure right now and in need of a stabilizing companionship, so she decides to join Christian and friends Mark (Will Poulter, We’re The Millers), Josh (William Jackson Harper, Paterson) and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren, The Days the Flowers Bloom) on a European trip to celebrate the nine-day midsommar festival in Pelle’s home country of Sweden. But unfortunately for the gang, this won’t be a sweet little trip to the neighborhood IKEA. With shades of Shyamalan’s The Village, Eggers’s The Witch and 1973’s The Wicker Man, their journey to enlightenment is destined to become a mind-bending story about a woman losing her mind and struggling to recalibrate her emotional bearings.

Once they arrive at the Candy Land-like commune tucked within the heavily-wooded surroundings of the Swedish countryside, Dani and friends are greeted by the white-frocked citizens of Hårga who pass out welcomes and hallucinogenic mushrooms in equal measure. Aster’s topsy-turvy visuals now start to make more sense as sky becomes ground while flowers, trees and even food begin to breathe in unison to Bobby Krlic’s trippy score that features tribalistic folk songs and incantations throughout.

A series of rustic but whimsical buildings including a communal bunkhouse, food service halls, and an A-frame temple are nestled against the beautiful tree-lined ridge. It’s like a sweet little campground for the cast of The Sound of Music dressed in white gowns with flowers in their hair. However, it soon dawns on us that this isn’t going to be a delightful mountainside hop with the von Trapps. Nope. We are being slowly lured into a trance-like state of unawareness and see no harm in Dani beginning to integrate herself into the Hårga community. But boy, are we wrong.

No sooner does the tranquility of this agrarian utopia begin to wash over us with cheerful dance and song, than Dani and friends (and us) become witness to a horrific and gory tragedy. Something so unspeakably appalling that our little sphere of comfort has been shaken to the core. And that’s all before the opening credits.

The remainder of our midsommar adventure has to do with the slowly revealed and little understood customs of the Hårga community that are expertly juxtaposed against the unraveling of Dani and Christian’s love for one another. Complicating their relationship is Pelle, whose emotions for Dani remain virtually unchecked in this den of drugs, paganism, and carnal delights.Midsommar (2019)

With Aster’s dark turn now fully underway, his tale of escalating horror begins to unfurl in bright, unobscured sunlight. During the summer months, Sweden never experiences full darkness, so Aster has nowhere to hide and no easy avenue for cheap horror tricks as every outdoor scene takes place in bright sunlight. Instead he relies on pure, in-our-face dread and baited apprehension. With numerous shots of twisted drawings and iconic imagery on the walls that foreshadow what’s to come, Aster preys upon our anticipation of the next bit of grotesque horror coming our way. There is a lot to be said for his decision to set the film in total daylight and it is undoubtedly a gigantic risk. But he pulls it off to great effect, as fear and terror no longer only come from things that go bump in the night.

Midsommar works best as a black fairy tale about a wounded woman’s journey through grief, misery, acceptance, and revenge. But there are plenty of other sinister things at work here as well.

Those seeking a date-night romp through the typical tropes of horror will be sorely disappointed as it is not a scary movie and never once does it rely on jump scares. Rather, it is a slow burn into the excitement of pulling away from our troubled past and the discomfort of heading into a life we don’t quite fully yet understand.

The more time you spend thinking about Midsommar, the more power you give it to continue its dig into your already damaged psyche. There is definitely a lot to think about, but best not to dig too deeply below the surface, as beneath its beautiful sun-lit facade lie many sick and twisted things just waiting to be uncovered. Midsommar, with its brutal imagery and unsettling message is not for everyone, but it will certainly have those who watch it begging for darkness.

5/5 beers

Midsommar (2019)

Blu-ray

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Midsommar (2019)

MPAA Rating: R for disturbing ritualistic violence and grisly images, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language.
Runtime:
147 mins
Director
: Ari Aster
Writer:
Ari Aster
Cast:
Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
Let the festivities begin.
Theatrical Distributor:
A24
Official Site: https://a24films.com/films/midsommar
Release Date:
July 4, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available
Synopsis: Dani and Christian are a young American couple with a relationship on the brink of falling apart. But after a family tragedy keeps them together, a grieving Dani invites herself to join Christian and his friends on a trip to a once-in-a-lifetime midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village. What begins as a carefree summer holiday in a land of eternal sunlight takes a sinister turn when the insular villagers invite their guests to partake in festivities that render the pastoral paradise increasingly unnerving and viscerally disturbing.

Midsommar (2019)

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