Midsommar is the second full-length horror movie from writer and director Ari Aster. His first movie is cult hit Hereditary. Hereditary was one of my early reviews, so it is not as fleshed out as it deserves. I was probably a little harsh with its rating. Horror movies are hit and miss with me and Midsommar was another miss.
Florence Pugh plays Dani, a third wheel on a boys' trip to Sweden for a mid-summer gathering. Florence has been quite busy in 2019; Fighting with My Family and Little Women. Her performance in this drug-fueled and sun stained journey is great. You can see her internal struggle as well as the way she justifies her boyfriend’s behavior. Jack Reynor plays the terrible boyfriend Christian. He is “the worst.” Dani’s sister starts the movie off by murdering her parents and taking her own life with carbon monoxide poisoning. It comes very early in the movie and sets the gruesome level appropriately high. Christian is not supportive in the slightest to Dani after the murder-suicide.
William Jackson Harper plays Josh, a toned-down version of Chidi from The Good Place. It is refreshing to see him in another role. He is bold enough to not respect boundaries and isn’t paralyzed by choice in this universe. The rest of the cast is not very notable.
The movie is set in northern Sweden, so the sun is up almost constantly. The light is harsh and slightly blue-tinted, as a result, there is a slight washing out of all the colors especially people’s skin. The scenery is beautiful and when multiple drug trips are layered overtop it is a feast for the eyes. This is in sharp contrast to the gore that fills out the movie.
There is clearly a lot of lore around this cult, but it is never explored or explained satisfactorily. There is inbreeding to make prophets. There are four seasons of life that are casually mentioned once. The ninety-year festival mandates that nobody ever gets to see more than one and some people never have it happen in their lives. Traditions must be passed along, but how? There are thousands of books in a library, but how long have these people existed? Is there a new tome written every week? Aster spends no time exploring any of the motivations of the cult. He just throws gruesome images after a gruesome image at you with an insufficient explanation.
The movie doesn’t rely on jump scares and it isn’t much of a psychological thriller. Everything is predictable, so some of the shocks are diffuse; Why is someone holding a giant hammer? Oh, probably to hit someone with. Ari Aster has a style that relies on visuals, but his story elements don’t feel cohesive. This may be his style, like Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, or Guy Ritchie have their own signature styles.
Florence Pugh did a lot of acting as Dani; notice my choice of words ‘a lot’. This was not my favorite 2019 movie of hers, but it showed off some of her skills. Ari Aster is likely to keep his cult fans happy, but I don’t think he is doing anything to draw in any new fans. I don’t appreciate most long run time movies. Midsommar’s theatrical run-time was 2:27 and there is a director’s cut of 2:51. I can’t imagine anything in those additional 24 minutes being valuable, this movie should have been shorter. Midsommar and Hereditary are segments of the horror genre that I do not intend on exploring further.