Who knew daylight could be so terrifying???
Midsommar is a horror/psychological thriller from writer/director Ari Aster, about a group of friends that visit a commune in one of the most northern parts of Sweden that is always in daylight, even in the middle of the night. Arriving abroad to partake in the midsummer festival/celebration that only comes about every 90 years, Dani (Florence Pugh), distant boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and a few of Christian’s close friends are immediately thrust into the weird, outlandish and sometimes disturbing activities these people do. As the days pass and the group begins to experience and understand what these people are all about, the dark and unnerving reality of what they have enveloped themselves in begins to rear its twisted, ugly head, and before they know it, their lives and sanity are teetering in the balance; a daylight drenched terror that grabs hold of them and threatens to never let go.
I gotta hand it to writer/director Ari Aster; this is one messed up movie. Not only is this a great and shocking idea on paper, but the fact that Aster is able to bring so many unsettling feelings to a film that is basically shot entirely in the daylight is a feat that many directors could only dream of. With a fantastic sense of direction that is spot on in almost every scene and a chilling score that sets the tone perfectly throughout, Aster and his crew pull his story and characters through the wringer in the most distressing yet beautiful way. Some great acting from our main and ancillary characters alike bolster their efforts even further by pushing the boundaries of what a horror film can be, while still allowing some great character work to fill in the blanks when the daytime terror isn’t front and center.
A relatively new addition to the Hollywood scene, Florence Pugh does some of the best acting I’ve seen in a while and suffice it to say I’ll be following her film choices from here on out. From start to finish, Pugh is able to pull off some really raw, broken and emotionally disturbing scenes as her character and fellow characters essentially go insane, and I was enthralled throughout by her performance. The rest of the cast does a great job in respect to their material, but make no mistake, this is Dani’s story, and the way that it twists and turns into the final stretch is an experience to say the least.
Although Midsommar is beautifully done in almost every regard, there are a few things that I’m not sure how I feel about. Though Aster really nails the tone and the absolutely bonkers way the ending felt like a fever dream of sorts, there’s a lot to unpack in the movie (it sits at almost 2 and a half hours long), and I don’t know if the drawn out length or the off the rails insanity of the final twenty minutes warrants a lower score. I truly enjoyed the film thoroughly and wasn’t necessarily bored at any point, but there are a few things that could have been trimmed or clarified for the sake of the story and pacing, the third act especially.
Granted, Aster’s last movie, Hereditary, was bonkers at the end too, so maybe it’s just his style, but it’s worth noting that Toni Collette had an equally as intense role as the main character in that film too (as does Florence Pugh in this one), so it’s nice to know that some filmmakers are doing these types of movies right by putting characters first and the horror elements in a close second!
A solid sophomore effort from a budding horror maestro who shows no signs of slowing down, Midsommar is a film that gives us something truly unique, disturbing and wildly entertaining to watch and contemplate on well after the credits roll. With writer/director Ari Aster bringing us into a twisted world of daylight drenched terror that doesn’t let up, it’s clear that this guy knows what he’s doing and won’t shy away from doing it, no matter how disturbing or insane. The film may go off the rails a bit in the final twenty minutes, but everything from the direction, to the acting, to the score, to the idea of the film itself needs to be experienced by anyone with the stomach to watch what unfolds onscreen. Midsommar might not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for a competent slow burn of a story that makes audiences feel like they’re going just as crazy as the characters we’re watching, then look no further.