It’s often said that you should try everything once although we have to draw the line at incest and Morris dancing. We’ve never understood why, in a modern age, grown men would dress in such a way, jigging about, waving hankies in the air whilst adorned with bells on their ends . Hmmmm…. bell ends. Sums them up really. But the quaint yet lunatic British custom has its equivalent in Sweden if Midsommar is anything to go by. Hot off the back of last year’s horror hit ‘Hereditary’ is writer / director Ari Aster’s follow up and it’s as sombre as you might expect.
Dani (Florence Pugh) and her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) are a young student couple already in crisis with tragedy in her family and his mates urging him to end the relationship in her hour of need. To get away from it all they travel to Sweden with Josh (William Jackson Harper) who is writing his thesis on ancient Midsommar festivals around the world which he’s been introduced to by Pelle (Vilhelm Nlomgren) and tagging along is Mark (Will Poulter) who’s loutish attitude to women and anything that’s not American makes him a bit of a liability.
Right from the start Midsommar is filled with an impending sense of dread and foreboding and there’s a feeling that Florence’s grief is not going to end even when she’s in Sweden. Hereditary had been a claustrophobic and darkly lit film taking place mostly inside a house but here Aster has taken Midsommar in the opposite direction with the film set in mostly wide open exterior sunlit spaces and the locals wearing all white costumes. In that respect it’s much like the challenge that Kubrick set himself with his version of The Shining with its roomy, brightly lit hotel. Perhaps the most obvious comparison is The Wicker Man which this plays like a Swedish version but is far more brutal.
Arriving at the commune with a British couple who conform to the Brit abroad stereotype as they are already drinking pints of lager when the locals welcome them with open arms and offer them hallucinogenic drugged up drinks. Unlike so many horror films Midsommar’s only concession to CGI is when the trippy effects subtly kick in with undulating landscapes and grass growing through hands amongst others none of it really alarming. But the vaguely comforting effects disguise the sense that this is all artificial is soon revealed in a moment that is both shocking and horrifying and from here on in it can only get worse for them and in that respect it is like a Young Conservatives stag night.
Much like Hereditary this is a long film but time goes quickly and at times is grotesquely comic underlined at the end where The Walker Brothers, ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine anymore’ plays over the end credits. Like The Wicker Man this is not a traditional horror film which may disappoint fans of Aster’s Hereditary but Midsommar, though it has moments which are horrific, it also has an unrelenting grim sense of dread that permeates its entire running time. Jordan Peele had a difficult job following up Get Out with his second film ‘Us’ which repays frequent rewatches and it’s the same for Aster with Midsommar and it’s an unsettling film that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
Here’s the Midsommar trailer…..