I purposefully avoided any kind of trailers for Midsommar. I didn’t even want to see ads or anything, that’s how excited I was for this. After seeing Hereditary, I was absolutely hooked. If a film is distributed by A24 or directed by Ari Aster, there’s a 90% chance I’m seeing it. There’s just something so wonderfully different and unique about these films, it’s extremely refreshing. I’m very happy to report that Midsommar is a horror hit, I would put it in the category of modern day horror classics. While this horror thriller is extremely well made and I believe, will become a classic, you should know what you can and cannot handle before watching.
The first thing I want to praise about this film is the way in which it’s filmed. The direction is very fitting for the tone, complete with shots that enhance the overall feel of each scene. I could tell from the very first shot that this was something special from a technical standpoint. The opening is very simple; the first thing you see is some beautiful landscape shots with eerie chanting. That sets the tone and it just works. There’s also one really cool shot that I was somewhat mesmerized by as it unfolded in front of me. It lasts for a quite a while and it’s really interesting camera work. So the technical side of this film really is very high quality, arthouse horror type. The characters are pretty good overall, there are a couple that lack depth but that’s kind of inevitable with this many of them, especially with a plot this heavy.
Florence Pugh’s character, Dani, is very well developed. The film devotes time in the very beginning to building a foundation for her, giving us some important insight into the conditions in her life. The way they build that up in the beginning is very impactful too, and what happens to her then affects her deeply throughout the entire thing. Pugh’s performance is a skilled one and she’s able to handle the different layers. She also proves that she has the ability to be a satisfying lead character.
Jack Reynor plays Dani’s boyfriend of four years, Christian. I thought his character was going to turn out to be a different kind of guy, just from seeing him in the beginning. I don’t dislike the path they gave him because it is crucial to the film’s ending and an interesting shift I didn’t anticipate. Reynor does a great handling this role, especially when you consider some of the more dramatic scenes he had to be in towards the end. Will Poulter provides some nice comedic relief, he plays one of the friends that’s very sexual and just constantly trying to flirt or hook up with someone.William Jackson Harper does a good job with his material. He plays one of the less developed characters, but he makes the best out of what he’s given.
The screenplay is so wonderfully eerie and well laid out. So much of the horror is played out in a very blunt disturbing manner and it works. There’s several scenes where very graphic ritualistic practices are performed. I like that the filmmakers really went for it when it came to those scenes because we as the audience needed to see just how crazy this commune and it’s inhabitants are. While I think it was the correct cinematic decision to show some of these things, I do caution the more squeamish moviegoers. Even though it’s not pervasive, when the violence comes, it’s extremely graphic. Also, this film contains the most extreme sex scene I think I’ve ever seen in a movie, I personally wasn’t bothered by it because I don’t mind male or female nudity and this scene does have a purpose. The content isn’t torture porn or exploitation, it’s just realistic.
Atmosphere is utilized well here too. There’s a lot of wide shots of the beautiful landscape where this commune is located. I loved seeing the nature and location used well because it made the film feel bigger and gave it more impact as a whole. The buildings are also very well designed. You wouldn’t think the buildings would matter that much but there are a couple in particular that come into play and I really appreciated the attention to detail.
The ending is, much like Hereditary, is extremely strong. The ending packs a punch that leaves you with a feeling of “wow…. that’s gonna be hard to forget”. And that’s just the thing… you don’t forget a film like Midsommar. You can tell the difference between films that are just churned out to make a quick buck and ones that are made with a careful hand. Midsommar was made with care and with an impressive attention to detail.
Another thing that I find interesting and I really love is what I see as an Ari Aster trend. Just like in Hereditary, here he focuses on one main characters story. There’s a whole lot of craziness going around both Toni Collette in Hereditary and Florence Pugh in Midsommar, but in the end, we clearly see this was their story. That makes the films stronger in my opinion. And the conditions both lead characters are steeped in are so impactful and darker than what you’d see in a conventional horror film. Aster has now proven himself to be a true game changer in this genre because of his willingness to go to the darker places, to be inventive and wonderfully original. Horror films such as Annabelle Comes Home have just become so damn conventional and are losing their bite. Well, Ari Aster and A24 have not lost their bite, they’re leading the way in original storytelling and horror that you’ll never forget.