Just one year ago, director Ari Aster marked himself out as a talent worth watching with Hereditary. Now, with Midsommar, Aster has confirmed his status as royalty within the horror genre. If Hereditary was a tale of a family’s grief which soon delved into the supernatural, then Midsommar is a tale of a girl’s sorrow & heartache at the death of her family which is further amplified by existing in a toxic relationship with her dickhead boyfriend. It’s a film that does not go for jump scares, but rather takes the viewer on altogether tension filled ride that will leave audiences feeling just as unhinged as Florence Pugh’s main character.
The set-up in Midsommar is really fairly brief. Florence Pugh’s Dani has recently suffered a horrific family tragedy and seeks comfort in the shape of Jack Reynor’s Christian. The two are stuck in a relationship neither of them knows how to get out of, with only Dani’s friend seeing the truth of the matter during a desperate phone call. The pair, along with Christians’ friends, reluctantly embark on a trip to Sweden for the country’s midsummer festival in the hope of potentially saving their decaying relationship.
Following up one of the decades best horror films is no mean feat. Similar to Jordan Peele and his double-whammy of Get Out and Us, Ari Aster feels more confident here – like a director who has found his groove and is now more assured. His talent to take the everyday scenarios we all face and make them terrifying is one that should not be underestimated. Taking these situations and then ramping them up with an almost unearthly authority, while at the same time examining death, guilt, sorrow, toxic relationships and how we cope with these scenarios makes for a film that can feel too much to bear at times. It’s this quality that truly marks out Midsommar. Like Hereditary before it, the film stays with you long after the credits have rolled and Aster’s real value is in creating stories that can truly endure.
In its themes and visuals, Midsommar can be as haunting as it is beautiful. There are truly some wonderful Kubrick-like moments on show here. From the long shots of Swedish countryside, to the harrowing music that burns into your soul, Midsommar feels like a film that’s only purpose is to unravel the audience to the point of utter nervousness. Setting the film during Sweden’s summer period where the sunlight is almost eternal, lends the film an almost unnatural atmosphere and amplifies every situation. It’s all done so well that Midsommar feels like an art exhibition, as Aster continually enriches every scene with an astonishing level of confidence.
At 171 minutes, the directors cut of Midsommar could have become a slog, with its running time testing the patience of many a fan. For the horror genre, this seems like a particularly long duration. But again, Aster wastes no time, with each shot and sequence feeling necessary until its haunting conclusion. Doubters may point to the films length as a criticism or simply mark it down as odd or just too damn weird. But that is to miss the point, and would completely omit the sheer craft that has gone into making this modern classic.
Midsommar is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download.