Oh man was I hyped for this movie! How could I not be? I loved Hereditary for effectively hitting plenty of the horror elements that culminate a smash effort in my little world. I wanted to love Ari Aster’s sophomore attempt, Midsommar, the same way and I’m still working out where I stand on it. Luckily, there were things Midsommar did revoltingly well and while watching I worked hard not to fall back to Hereditary and expect those same dreadful feelings in just the same way. I’m sure that’s where things got murky and unfulfilling in some places, but looking at it as a stand-alone picture, I felt it delivered.
Midsommar deals with cults but the beautiful kind. From the outside. Endless sunshine and overt hospitality. The less you know, the more idyllic it seems. Awesome. Bring a bunch of unsuspecting Americans to Sweden for what they think is a nine-day ritualistic celebration that will not only bring them enlightenment but drugs and booze and Swedish girls is an easy place to start and one you know will take an unpredictable and devastating turn with Aster in charge. Worse than the Fyre Festival but like, lots of actual fire and torch burning too!
Main chick, Dani, has boyfriend problems, namely with a knockoff Seth Rogan looking dude which could normally be a fun thing but, in this case, a gaslighting, weak-willed, un-original thinking loser thing. She goes to Sweden to attend the Halsingland Festival with him and his friends to naively improve their relationship and help her cope with the loss of her parents and sister to a horrible accident; her family’s crime scene sinisterly adorned with flower crowns. So far so good.
Aster is excellent at setting the scene with unusual, striking architecture and harrowing art pieces and symbolism constructed to vaguely foreshadow what’s to come and provide a little more information conveying how the cult operates, their customs and purpose and then perfectly plays some of that out in real time. I will admit, I wish there was more reasoning and story with this cult than we got. Many of the gorey visuals and cerebral beliefs were shocking throughout and got across the bullshit cults put out there to be above “typical life” while traumatizing and killing people in the process but I was still left wondering who or what was it all for? My only guess beyond that is this cult could have been a physical push for Dani to overcome her toxic relationship and familial grief as she and her boyfriend truly experience every uplifting and fucked up ritual this cult has in store. The way these groups manipulatively support people and then swiftly break them in return for extreme loyalty as part of a creepy, family collective is one of the big takeaways and sheds some light on how people can get sucked in. What’s most unforgiving is that several scenes are showered in eternal sunshine, greenery and colorful, flowery aesthetics tricking the audience into feeling like it’s the Sound of Music while skulls are shattering, and backs are butterflied.
Midsommar has so much working at once it almost makes sense why the characters we follow just keep consuming weird elixirs and offerings because they feel like they can’t say no. When a girl makes eyes at you over and over, your ego gets hold and the best idea seems to go with her when she beckons. Everything that seems like a good idea just isn’t in Halsingland.
Take a ::deep breath:: and go see it.