Midsommar is a nerve-racking tourism ad gone all-kinds of wrong.
Here be spoilers…
What we like
It's beautifully shot. From the cold, unfeeling landscape of the city to the lush fields of Hälsingland beneath an azure sky that stretches forever; the environment is as much of a character as the players. Then taking cues from Annihilation's shimmer effect, the addition of psychedelics makes the colours pop: foliage move on their own, leaves seem to breathe.
Relationships are vivisected and left splayed for viewers to see: Dani and Christian's relationship is dead in the water; they know it but they make no effort to call it quits. It's a familiar case study and one that many couple would fall back on, to avoid the sharp stab of severance; we'd rather rely on codependence regardless of the company.
Director Ari Aster, sure knows how to choose his leading ladies. His last film, Hereditary, was carried by Toni Collette. For Midsommar, Florence Pugh delivers a powerhouse performance in grief. After a tragedy in her family, she suffers bouts of PTSD; she freaks out during a dalliance with psilocybin—Dani's fragility is held together by the barest threads of her devotion to her relationship with Christian. With that in mind, during the film's final moments, you can sorta see how everything she puts up can easily come crashing down.
Labelled as a horror movie, the way Midsommar delivers its scares is different from Hereditary. There's nothing supernatural about the horror inflicted, that's all courtesy of humans. Shown mostly under daylight, the horror occurs sparingly but the dread hangs heavy in this Edenic landscape. There's something innately creepy about the eternally cheery disposition of the Hårga people and their pagan ways, like a thousand knife wounds yet to be unleashed.
What we didn't like
So, something majorly horrific happens about, maybe, an hour into the film. The outsiders aka Dani, Christian and the rest of the gang, witness this but they continued staying for the rest of the festival? It doesn't make sense. Is Josh's adherence to uncovering the village's history that strong, is Mark's yen for Swedish poontang so blinding that they would endure living there?
Also, do the villagers, who brought the outsiders to witness their traditions, really think that this would go over well with them? I mean, there's no forewarning, no hint or preview, and they expect them to be chill with it?
Another niggle is the subplot of the village's oracle that never really went anywhere.
What to look out for
As the horrors take place in daylight, so do some of Aster's easter eggs that are placed in full view. Aster's films require more than one viewing to fully appreciate the story. There are foreshadowing galore, especially with the opening card (by the artist Mu Pan) of the movie, which informs viewers what is about to happen. If you're well-versed in Swedish of Elder Futhark, you might uncover more about the village's traditions. I can't say much but do keep an eye out for the hidden faces as well.
Midsommar is out now in theatres.