My favorite movie of 2018 was writer/director Ari Aster’s debut feature Hereditary. Aster’s technically accomplished movie had a feeling of terror and misery over every frame, with a lot of neat camera and editing tricks to highlight the evil that was doing what it did to the family at the center of the movie. And I normally don’t care much for horror movies. I still don’t. I don’t like gore or jump scares, and Aster’s movie kept both to a minimum by instead building dread.
As such, I was very happy to learn Aster’s second movie was coming out this year. And here we are with Midsommar. Can Aster make a strong second feature or is he a one-hit wonder?
After a huge family tragedy, college student Dani (Florence Pugh) decides to take a trip to Sweden with her emotionally distant boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). Along for the ride are Christian’s two friends, anthropology student Josh (The Good Place‘s William Jackson Harper) and token asshole buddy Mark (Will Poulter). The whole idea came from another friend, exchange student Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren). The group is going to see Pelle’s home village, Harga. Every 90 years, there’s a Midsommar festival in Harga. Josh wants to see it for his studies, Mark to maybe get laid, and Christian initially hoped to get far away from Dani before she decides to tag along.
Of course, Harga’s festival is more than just a simple series of quaint rituals. What happens there is far older and far scarier than any of the American visitors could have hoped for.
So, was this movie as good as Hereditary? No, but it’s hardly bad. I quite enjoyed it, but this is a different kind of horror from Aster, almost bordering on dark comedy. Rather than being grim from the beginning, the tension gradually begins and increases over time. Yes, the opening scene before the credits roll is grim, but the tone is different this time. For all that they do, the villagers never seem particularly sinister. In their own way, they’re more welcoming than anything else. Combine that with Harga experiencing 24 hour sunlight during the festival, and you have a very different kind of horror movie. This one doesn’t hide what’s going on in shadows. Midsommar hides its scares in other ways. There’s more to say, but that’s taking me into SPOILER territory, so I’ll set up something for later today.
In the meantime, let’s say this one is 9 out of 10 suspicious teas.