A masterclass of folk horror with some of most psychologically-disturbing macabre I’ve *ever* witnessed brilliantly juxtaposing a bright nature motif w. fantasticism in daylit xenophobic bases. A visually-wondrous, auteurist rococo presage. 9.1/10.
Plot Synopsis: With their relationship in trouble, a young American couple travel to a fabled Swedish midsummer festival where a seemingly pastoral paradise transforms into a sinister, dread-soaked nightmare as the locals reveal their terrifying agenda.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
Macabre Set In The Light Of Day
‘Hereditary’ Provocateur Ari Aster’s Back With A Rococo Presage & Sophomore Entry For Ages
Midsummer. The flower-crowned majesty of Swedish traditions amongst hilly ultra-green landscapes straight out the annals of The Sound of Music was the last place anyone would think sounds good for the pitch: “Let’s make a horror movie.” In comes Ari Aster’s prodigious Hereditary-proven talents, with A24 backing and a whole slew of impressive crewmembers & cinematographers plus a wild trailer and people began to change their tone. What we’re given is far beyond what anyone could have possibly expected or dreamed of – an acid-dripping, once-in-a-decade masterpiece whose biggest achievement is what everyone thought would be its demise – not even needing the primordial circadian backdrop of darkness to attain its booming scare collection. A masterclass in folk horror with some of the most disturbing & unsettling macabre I’ve EVER witnessed brilliantly juxtaposing a stunningly-bright nature motif with fantasticism in xenophobic bases, Ari Aster’s elegantly-original, visually-wondrous auterist rococo presage is absolutely *wild*.
The Idyllic Setting Amongst The Rolling Hills Of Sweden – Twisted For Unbelievable Scares
The horror with disturbing aura starkly contrasting its feel/setting. What’s easily the biggest selling point & delineating factor for Midsommar is its setting. A celebratory festival in the flower-laden, idyllic paradisal hills of Sweden seems like the last possible place you’d expect to find psychological horror so messed up, it’s indescribable. Yet that’s exactly what’s on the docket in this slow-burning masterclass in folk horror, where the subgenre’s biggest themes like fantasticism and atmosphere are let handled best by its wildly-flamboyant festivities introducing us into a cultural experience unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed. Things start to take some weird turns with ominous undertones like we’re watching something we shouldn’t be (and were questionably invited to see), exemplified by the mysterious circumstances surrounding our plucky characters as they start to drop off the canvas one by one as the festivities roll. The suspended aura and tension-building is downright Hitchcockian, wherein only Dani seems to echo our sentiments that something serious off is going on here until we’re given glimpses into the real reason for invitation of these outsiders as brutal human sacrifices meeting their end in absolutely *sadistic* ways. A few scenes I doubt I will ever forget amongst the most psychologically-disturbing I’ve ever witnessed in my entire LIFE & filmic tenure include the two elders jumping off freaking granite cliffs willingly (W.T.F.), Josh’s reunion with Mark at the abandoned altar trying to selfishly take expressly-forbidden pictures of the sacred texts only to see his friend with his genitals blown off and face seemingly torn and replastered-on humming weird tones as Josh’s head is thwacked by a hammer, and the beyond-exposition finale wherein we see our heroes’ true fate as skin-husk dolls stuffed with produce and even one dissected skin rag in the chicken-coop with flowers for eyes and perhaps even still breathing – OH. MY. GOODNESS.
Horror In Its Purest Form
This is horror in its purest form: instantly-stupefying, ghastly macabre and some of the most psychologically-disturbing and unsettlingly in decades: The xenophobic horror of The Wicker Man – on acid. Midsommar’s also nicely-mysterious in whodunit/slasher stylism we’re just as much in the dark as a makeshift final girl with all these horrific crimes against nature happening off-screen and off-plot as the film assaults you with fear-of-the-unknown, coerces you to accept it as just different lifestyle, then gets you while your guard is down. The final shot of Dani’s screams for her friends and lover when she realizes what she’s done and played part in, turned into an eyes-bulging sadistic laugh is the perfect cap on this backwards, twisted modern fairy tale rife with pitch-black omen-ful aura that’s BRILLIANTLY contrasted with the lightest, brightest possible surroundings to play tricks on your mind – triggering your brain’s classically-comforting primal/instinctual “everything’s fine” visuals (daylight) – when *nothing* could be farther from the truth.
Some Of The Wildest Scares I’ve Ever Seen In My Life – OH. MY. GOODNESS.
The characters & intricacy in human-weaved tale. What’s even more fascinating than the surgically-executed marching order the village carries out like clockwork doing away with their honored guests is the human tale of deceit, jealousy, infidelity, and sin weaved before us (through a spectacular screenplay & phenomenal performances). Florence Pugh gives a career-defining performances as final girl and eventual May Queen Dani, a wildly-intriguing character undergoing a soul-wrenchingly dark bipolar sister car exhaust-heavy backstory herself feeling weak and needy to her boyfriend Christian in a somewhat-ambivalent, shaky relationship to start with. Christian and his buds are conned by Vilhelm Blomgren’s screen-stealing, incredibly friendly-appearing wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing Pelle as the puppetmaster behind the whole story promising access to a village and festival they clearly never wanted or were going to allow to be released to the world in the first place – carefully spinning Easter Eggs and the framework for the destruction of the entire group one by one willingly marching like turkeys into the oven themselves to his Swedish village for their timely demise. The play on human emotions is devilishly-sadistic and just as scary as any of its psych-frights, while also just as smart in situational screenwriting as its topics like PhD theses and academia-competitiveness (seen firsthand when in Pre-Me) wherein jealousy/greed/cutthroat oneupmanship led to both’s demise, and human-based/primal as Mark’s (hilarious) weak spot for beautiful women letting himself get lured away from camp so easily and ill-advisedly. The way the entire village – seemingly all in on it all playing roles as choreographed as its luncheon traditions – drives wedges between the multiple groups, luring and isolating them by playing their emotions like card games so skillfully they barely even know or care to ask basic, potentially-lifesaving awareness questions like: “Where on earth is everyone in our group going?” is Biblical evil, and wildly entertaining.
The Characters & Human Tale
The visual and auditory majesty amongst the best the genre has EVER seen. From its (stunning) wintery blizzard-backdrop opening color-matched to the cold desperation of suburban technology-burdened neighborhoods amusingly jarred with ringtones interrupting its sibylline hymns, we are introduced to quite simply one of the most beautiful horror films – or films period – I’ve ever seen. Paralleling its cultural subject’s intense attention to structure/precision, the cinematographical orderliness by Pawel Pogorzelski is absolutely mechanical – with such impressively precise symmetrical/patterned shots, they hardly read as human-made flowing into free-formed flowery field ones again feeling non-human & divinity-inspired (should easily win Best Cinematography next Awards Season). Even minuscule/inconsequential details like picking up silverware & sitting down in progressive waves between ceremonial feasts (that would normally be glossed over or sloppily-“whatever”ed in most films) is here surgical with painstaking crispness you can tell was anal-retentively harped upon, but creates a magical effect meshing the visuals and themes hallucinogenically.
The Pogorzelski Cinematography & Druggy VFX On This Delirium Trip – Oscar-Worthy
The camerawork and druggy VFX are wildly-impressive too, shaking things up with ultra-long shots, upside-down drone work, and overhead/backwards shot construction making for experimental indie frames boosted by avant-garde techniques I’ve never seen before like applying filters to twist surroundings. Even in nature far away from green screens usually required for this level of dystopia/disorientative weirdness is the distortion applied, making you feel like you’re on as bad a trip off those mushrooms as our subjects. All this technical/technological wizardry is only vitalized by the absolutely jaw-dropping beauty of the Swedish countryside surroundings amongst mid-summer flower-laden plains so majestic and bright/vibrant, they seem dream or heaven-like. It’s like The Sound of Music.. on crack, feeling like a von Trapp might come out bursting into song any second, yet it wouldn’t be big enough for the glory and regality around us. Finally, the score also deserves note in its widely-varied topography as skillful as the visuals in everything from gentle, cascading harp-plucked notes and synthy pads creating nostalgic simplicity massaging you into deep relaxation like its subjects being coaxed into false-safety by its salivating fox-like predators, only to be interrupted by big booming bass and violin screeches as the horror and psychological-disturbances hit later in-film. Unbelievable.
Flaws are near-nonexistent in this breathtakingly-beautiful masterwork of originality, but perhaps a less-brash finale and no MCU-humor would’ve made it perfect. The finale – while fantastical and sense-assaulting in all the best ways as an overall-magnificent final exclamatory punctuation for what we just witnessed – could’ve toned down its weird sex scene and graphic nudity. We literally see a (naked) old woman – eek – pushing Christian’s bare butt cheeks into the girl for more penetration (W.T.F.) and bystanders around watching and moaning swaying lewdly for what seems like entire minutes; it’s a lot, even for folk horror built foundationally on being unapologetically-flamboyant and fantastical by premise. Mark – while funny no doubt in his sex-obsessed juvenile shenanigans in classically-frat bro manner, becomes slightly over-silly with gags like peeing on sacred ancestral trees without sincere apology interjected at some ill times during the film occasionally interrupting and confusing its flow/horror atmosphere. These are minuscule flaws though.
The Wicker Man On Acid
One Of The Most Strikingly Original & Breathtaking Horror Films This Millennium
Midsommar is one of the most breathtakingly original, messed-up, *wild* films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s like The Wicker Man meets The Sound Of Music – on crack, assaulting our senses in the best way possible for a cinematic acid-trip unlike any other of the 21st-century. Aster has proven that he, along with Peele and Eggers, are three of the best modern horror directors of our time. A masterclass of folk horror with some of most psychologically-disturbing macabre I’ve *ever* witnessed brilliantly juxtaposing a bright nature motif with fantasticism in daylit xenophobic bases, Midsommar is a visually-wondrous auteurist rococo presage and one of the best horror films of the 2000’s.
Official CLC Score: 9.1/10