‘Welcome, and happy Midsommar!’
I don’t really go to the cinema anymore. This is mainly due to the always lurking possibility that I might take a small nap or tut loudly at some teenagers. I’m too damn old to sit in a room with strangers. I’ve got clouds to shake my fist at and vouchers to redeem. For something to tempt me out of the safety of my front room it has to be pretty darn special.
Hereditary was arguably the pinnacle of the new horror revolution. While films such as A Quiet Place and Sinister laid the foundations, Ari Aster’s instant classic took horror to a monstrous new level, much in the same way as The Exorcist did in the ‘70s. It was Aster’s follow up – Midsommar – that would be the film to tease me out of my dark hovel and into another dark hovel but with some popcorn.
Dani (Florence Pugh) attempts to heal her deep trauma and shitty relationship with Christian (Jack Reynor) by going to stay in a remote Swedish village during an ancient Pagan festival. As you do. Things quickly turn nasty as sex, drugs and Nordic trolls take their toll on our soft, American heroes.
Firstly, there are parts of Midsommar that are genuinely incredible. The psychedelic scenes are visceral, powerful and sickeningly realistic in their portrayal of experiencing a bad trip. The violence is bone-crunchingly raw and the performances are strong across the board. Florence Pugh continues her seemingly unstoppable rise as the tortured protagonist but Jack Reynor more than holds his own as the self-serving and spineless yin to Pugh’s desperate and clingy yang. Together, theirs is a relationship that is the definition of toxic. Dani allows for Christian’s continued shitty behaviour because she is terrified of losing him. This dynamic is explored ruthlessly until a grisly and unforgettable conclusion. One that is slightly derivative of The Wicker Man but still remains effective and shocking.
The lack of originality inherent within the plot of Midsommar is offset by the beautiful imagery and the unrelenting assault on the senses. In this respect, Midsommar definitely benefits from being viewed in all its big screen glory. Plotting aside, the main downfall of Midsommar is that sometimes it is just too daft. There were certain scenes that made me laugh at the absurdity of it all, not a bad thing in itself but when a filmmaker is asking so much of his audience it is imperative that there is nothing that makes the journey itself seem ludicrous.
That being said, compared to almost any other horror film, Midsommar would have to go down as a resounding success. But in the context of Hereditary, it almost feels like a step backward.