I called it before I even entered the theater to see Midsommar…
I thought that I would be confused on what side of the fence I would be on after leaving the theater and I was exactly right. One side of me is screaming masterpiece and the other side of me is confused on how I feel about all of the "out there" moments in the film, not confused in terms of it's themes and what it was going for, but just how I felt about the 2 and a half hour journey and all it entailed in terms of how it lined up with my tastes in Horror, or any movie for that matter.
One thing's for sure though, even more than Hereditary (my favorite movie from last year) I can definitely see how this one was very divisive for audiences.
The above statements were my initial thoughts and now that I've slept on it and let the fog clear a bit, I can now definitively say this was yet another home run for Ari Aster as he tells the sophomore slump trope to find someone else to pick on cause you won't find a shred of a bad second effort here. In fact, I'm currently now juggling between Midsommar, Us and Lords of Chaos as my favorite movies that I'VE personally seen so far this year..
Midsommar much like a HUGE theme in Hereditary deals with the loss of close ones and just how much it can not only change you but just how grief stricken it can leave you. Hereditary amped it up a bit more but there still wasn't a shortage of heartbreak mixed in for our central character as she tries to move on the best way she knows how.
And what initiated that grief basically out of the gates was a really powerful scene and you can only imagine being in Dani's shoes losing so much so quickly and trying to cope with the reality that those parts of you aren't just gone momentarily, but for eternity. A word that nobody in the world can wrap their mind around no matter how hard we try because it's infinite and trying to wrap your mind around something so untouchable will just make things worse for you but just like human nature we will inevitably try to do it anyways and only add fuel to the fire unfortunately.
All of the dread in this film punches us in the mouth before we even take the trip to the village in Sweden where we spend the majority of this crazy flick. Ari Aster continues to pull life out of scenes that with a less talented director at the helm would be rendered useless and I think this is why the 2 and a half hour run time works for me even if I have seen a few complaining about the long run time but you'll hear no complaints here. Just more character development and breathtaking shots to go with the sprinkled in madness that we don't necessarily get plenty of but when we do get it, it's pretty damn satisfying!
Some striking gory kills are right in your face and others we see the aftermath of but it is a really effective mix seeing just enough of the grotesque to go with the visual demons we make up in our own head to keep me completely satisfied. Personally this is the perfect balance for me, I don't want to miss out on the brutality of kills but I don't want them around every corner either cause it starts to lose it's impact after a while. This film does a good job of playing with the theater of the mind for the other half of the kills shown off screen, for you to imagine just how messed up things got while they were happening.
Let's talk about that cinematography! Aster does it again with beautiful shot after beautiful shot. It was an interesting choice to make this movie take place solely in the day time but it ends up being a great choice for the movie as it adds it's own flavor that almost feels like a character in and of itself. There's a lot of shots that the simple minded viewer might think are excessive but for me I was just reveling in the beauty of it all. A huge part of this movie is the characters going on different trips and I'm not exactly talking about strolls around the village, I'm of course talking about drugs children and they're not only in full force here in what the movie goes for but I'm not sure if psychedelics have been shown this effectively on screen before. Astor delivers the goods on almost making you feel like you're along for the trip that they're on and it is a blast to watch and you almost wish you were there, well…..maybe in the beginning with a sure fire exit strategy in place.
There's also a claustrophobic feel because even though there's open fields in every direction, you can't help but have a feeling of even if I did take off where would I go? The hopelessness is draped over the camera lens and also feels like a character amongst the movie just like the bright daylight.
One thing that took me by a bit of a surprise was the comedy that was very present, especially towards the beginning of the movie, primarily done by Will Poulter's character Mark. A lot of the jokes land for me with the standout funny scene happening on their first trip under a tree. I've said time and time again! I don't mind comedy in my Horror Movies cause it's a nice change of pace from all of the blood and gore most of us come to these kinds of films for, but it has to be done well with timing and execution cause it cannot, I repeat CANNOT disrupt your tension. It needs to be in proper doses not breaking up your most integral parts of the movie and Ari Astor juggles the two beautifully.
Now it is time for our Character portion of the review.
Dani - our leading lady once again gives a damn near tour de force performance like Toni Collette gave in Hereditary. It wasn't quite there on Colette's level but it's between her and Lupita Nyong'o for best performance I've seen this year. As a added bonus I had never seen her before so even though I expected something good from her since she was cast as the lead role, I was pleasantly surprised by just how good it was. Every moment of terror and every moment you were supposed to sympathize with her you did and then some! It only makes me wonder what's next for her and who the next leading lady is going to be in Aster's films, cause can he really keep churning these type of performances out of his Actors/Actresses???
Christian - The Boyfriend of Dani in the movie and sadly he's a bit of a clueless dick. He's your stereotypical, need to be reminded of everything, no relationship common sense Kind of guy. He played this role really well imo and I didn't mind this Chris Pratt/Steve Zahn looking lovechild for the most part but I wonder if I wouldn't have preferred a more caring boyfriend that would have added another person we would have deeply cared for and would have added another element in terms of stakes.
Josh - wasn't anything special but played his role just fine. He was your typical I know I shouldn't do this but I'm overpowered by greed character. He was probably the least interesting of the main cast but he served the purpose of his character and played it well.
Mark - I elaborated earlier vaguely on how he was the comic relief of the movie and that he was! I can see a lot of people not liking this character cause he is also a bit of a clueless dick much like Dani's boyfriend Christian, but at least he was a funny clueless dick. I really enjoyed all of his one liners and his ability to seemingly improvise on an otherwise boring scene. He really helped spice things up and helped to keep things fresh over the course of the 2 and a half hour run time, primarily over the period of time before everything hits the fan.
Pelle - was a guy who seemed the part in terms of the other three guys friendship but you soon find out otherwise due to him being the one taking them to the village in Sweden realizing with his accent and where he's from he has a completely different background then the rest of the guys but does he have some sort of ulterior motive or was he left in the dark in terms of all or most of the graphic things that take place in the village?
Residents of the village - all of these people go above and beyond in terms of succeeding on the creepiness aspect of all of their character's. From things they believe in that completely shock you, to their weird chants and mannerisms and to their overall look that appears peaceful but yet you can somehow still see right through it all as soon as you meet them. Maybe that is a flaw because our main characters should have seen that, but two of them are idiots, 1 is desperate for an escape, one has something he can benefit off of from the village and the other has some sort of backstory with them for him to want to take them there in the first place so is it really?
Midsommar is another brutal, gut-wrenching and sometimes even funny movie added to the growing young Filmography of Ari Aster and if this movie is any proof... Hereditary was not an Ari Aster stroke of luck but rather a stroke of genius. He's not just 2 for 2, he's 2 for 2 with two damn near flawless films and it's exciting to see such a competent director continue to grow right before our very eyes!