“Midsommar” is the latest folk horror film from A24 studios and “Hereditary” director Ari Aster.
Dani (Florence Pugh), her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his group of friends take an innocent trip to Sweden for a festival that occurs every 90 years. When they arrive, strange occurrences bring them to the realization that they’re trapped within a ritualistic pagan cult.
The film stars Pugh, Reynor, William Jackson Harper and Will Poulter. It’s Aster’s second directorial feature.
“Hereditary” was one of my favorite horror films of last year. Featuring skilled direction, genuine terror and an incredible performance from Toni Collette, it was a stunner of a debut for Aster. While not at all a conventional horror flick, the filmmaking prowess combined with the psychological horror proved to be a powerful combo.
“Midsommar” is an aesthetically different film, as it takes place almost totally in daylight. However, the offbeat horror filmmaking is effective. It contains graphic content — often pushing the boundaries of the R rating. Its dark and disturbing nature is not for a mainstream audience, but for viewers who enjoy a challenging and psychological horror flick, “Midsommar” is a home run.
Pugh’s performance is the crux of the film. Similar to Collette in “Hereditary,” Pugh is tasked with conveying a range of emotions. Her character endures trauma, and how Pugh channels that in her performance is amazing.
There are scenes of her character breaking down emotionally — sometimes experiencing panic attacks — and Pugh doesn’t attempt to glorify any of it. She puts herself into the role and doesn’t glamorize any aspect of it. Pugh is fantastic in the film and is one of the finest leading performances of the year.
Reynor, Poulter and the rest of the supporting cast also are excellent. I enjoyed Poulter’s “straight-man” performance. His character provides much of the dark humor that resides within the content. He often points out things that the audience would ask in his situation. It seems as though Aster wrote the character to poke fun at the ridiculous aspects of the film.
I also have to give props to Reynor for his daring performance. His character carries a lot of baggage, as they work out their relationship. Reynor also has a particular sequence in the third act that is intimidating for any actor to put themselves in.
Aster masterfully directs it. There are some enchanting uses of the camera. Hypnotizing scenes of characters parading around fields arm-to-arm look hauntingly orchestrated. Careful shooting and editing enhance the suspense and horror that the characters face at every turn.
As if the terrific performances and directing weren’t enough, Bobby Krlic’s musical score is the icing on the cake. One recurring track builds for several minutes and leaves the viewer severely on-edge for its length. If the disturbing imagery and visual storytelling weren’t effective enough, then the eerie music will do the trick.
The film clocks in at 2 hours and 27 minutes. It takes its time to get to the darker elements but never to the point you lose interest. Despite that, I loved the deeper themes behind the haunting and provocative imagery. The juxtaposition of the dark content with the sunny setting is profoundly effective.
Aster’s direction results in an euphorically satisfying art house horror flick.
I give “Midsommar” 4.75 stars out of 5. Rated R.