It’s deranged, it’s disturbing, it’s long, and yet, it’s watchable.
As a kid, my biggest fear is standing out in a field midday by myself, and hearing a loud scream. I would be frightened by that situation, doesn’t matter how old I would be.
“Midsommar, the latest horror entry from writer/director Ari Aster (the genius behind last year’s “Hereditary”) gives me a few examples of my fear. He’s really quite effective with horror movies, and this is no exception.
Example 1: there’s an opening scene where the main heroine Dani (Florence Pugh) loses her family, and cries uncontrollably to her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), who previously wanted to end their relationship. This moment reminded me of Toni Collete’s breakdown in “Hereditary.”
Example 2: Christian’s Swedish friend Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) takes him, Dani, Mark (Will Poulter), and Josh (William Jackson Harper) to his village in Sweden, where apparently it’s still daylight at 9PM. Sometimes, it gets a little dark, but most of the time, it’s bright out. That’s why when people go to sleep, they cover the windows.
In this village, there are a series of traditions that takes place every midsummer. One of them combines the two examples I’ve listed.
One ritual, for instance, declares that when people turn 72, they have their palms sliced, rub their blood on a stone, and jump to their demise. If they do survive the jump, other members would bash their melons with a giant mallet. Memo to those with a weak constitution: there are some gruesome shots.
Dani begins to worry about this sacred place, because of their unorthodox activities, and the fact that some of the other tourists go missing. Even Christian is as confused about it as she is. And yet, somehow, they go along with the traditions.
“Midsommar” is shot so bright that it looks like Wes Anderson made this movie, because of the simple special effects, weird situations, and artful images. Ari Aster has the tools to tell a horror movie about sacred cult rituals, and uses original characters to grasp the concepts inside.
The performances from the cast are pure and complex. They aren’t generic tourists; they’re people who either want to discover a different kind of tradition or write an article about the midsummer rituals. Pugh transcends from one emotion to the next; Reynor eases at an honest pace; Harper is charming with his interests in the sacred material (stop me if I say “sacred” again); Blomgren introduces himself very well with his honesty; and Poulter offers some fresh dialogue.
Again, there are some gruesome moments. Not at the “Saw” level, but at a radiant level. They’re drawn like portraits, and they disturb us with their sincere effects and designs. It runs for 2 hours and 25 minutes, and yet, we’re patient enough to know what will go down. And at times, it’s loud with the screaming that pops up, and yet, we’re still watching the movie.
Most of “Midsommar” is unpredictable, except for two minor details (the meat pies and the cliff suicides), and the craftsmanship keeps things rolling along. And about the brightness, I’m surprised the main tourists never brought sunglasses. Maybe, they weren’t supposed to, I don’t know.