by Sean Sobel
After watching 2018’s Hereditary I found myself with a rekindled love for films that frighten, so you can only imagine my excitement when it was revealed that the director of Hereditary would be releasing a new movie in the summer of 2019, fittingly titled Midsommar. This film proved similar to its predecessor, focusing on the allure of a dark family with nefarious intentions. Instead of a coven of witches, this film focuses on a cult of pagan Swedes who believe themselves in harmony with the natural world, along with a broken American protagonist, Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh), who finds herself slowly aligning herself with them.
In the visually unnerving films of Ari Aster, there is nothing more horrific than the reality of human emotion. Hereditary followed a family rocked by loss so devastating that the final scenes of devil-worshipping naked ghouls served little purpose to the overall film, spelling out the evil truths alluded to during the course of the film. Aster’s new movie, Midsommar, is a slow-burn—full of striking images and constant unease.
Like Hereditary, Midsommar is very much rooted in trauma. It begins with Dani desperately trying to get ahold of her mentally ill sister who has sent her a series of cryptic messages. As she tries to pick up the broken pieces of her family life, Dani seeks consolation from her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), who she finds out is leaving for a trip with some of his graduate school colleagues. They’re headed to an isolated Swedish commune that is holding a nine-day festival to observe the summer solstice. Dani presses Christian about why he didn’t tell her earlier, and an argument ensues. As soon as the group arrives, the audience is sent into a drug-induced trip, courtesy of the hallucinogenic mushrooms eaten by the characters. This happens constantly throughout the course of the movie, and was slightly disorienting, since the scenes themselves were distorted. These effects allowed Aster’s twisted vision to flourish on the big screen.
The film continues showing the lack of empathy that Christian has for Dani. From the beginning, it is revealed to us that he resents his five year relationship with Dani, but cannot seem to break it off.
The next hour and a half of the film is filled with more drugs, cult activity, and wicked rituals. There was a solid amount of realistic gore in this film, unlike the cheap tricks the horror genre is known for. It felt very real, which adds another layer of uneasiness and dread to the two and a half hour thriller.
Unlike Hereditary, I thoroughly enjoyed the final scene of this film. The ending sticks with you as you walk out the theatre and provokes thought and discussion long after the credits start rolling. I won’t ruin that for you, because this is a film that you’re going to want to see in theaters while you still can.
Sean Sobel is a Staff Editor for Honeysuckle Magazine and a student at Rutgers University. Follow him on Twitter @seansbel