Our staff heads to the theater to check out “Midsommar”, Ari Aster’s highly anticipated and polarizing follow up to his breakout horror hit “Hereditary”.
Intro by Angry Princess (Editor-in-Chief)
Last year’s Hereditary took its place among a select group of modern horror films that have taken my breath away in the most unexpected of ways, shaken me to my core, and left me spinning in my head for days and weeks afterwards. Needless to say, when news of Ari Aster’s sophomore film Midsommar broke, it immediately catapulted to the top of my most anticipated horror films of 2019. The fact that it also had strong folk horror undertones only heightened my anticipation.
Full disclosure: I went into my viewing of Midsommar with a mix of heady anticipation and nervous anxiety, desperate to love it and terrified I might not. Expectations and relentless hype are a hell of a hard climb for any filmmaker — even one as undeniably skilled and creatively innovative as Aster.
A two and half hour slow burning indie horror film about grief, loss, fractured relationships, and individual versus communal identity?
That’s nothing if not incredibly bold and remarkably unconventional.
Let’s face it, this was a film that was bound to polarize audiences. As you can tell from the mixed bag of reviews from our writers, this isn’t a film you feel kind of lukewarm about. It will either stir your soul in indescribable ways, washing over you in a wave of hypnotic beauty and exquisite emotion. Or it will leave feeling cold, detached, and confused by reviews that hail it as a triumph of cinematic achievement.
As for me, I stand firmly in the former’s court, feeling an overwhelming mix of impossible-to-articulate emotions — having been completely and unabashedly swept up in the extraordinary beauty and evocative nature of the film. As far as I’m concerned, Ari Aster is part of the next generation of genre greats and true artistic pioneers. I hope he continues to hone his remarkably unique voice, telling more compelling and deeply affecting stories about human pain and suffering.
Part of what makes Midsommar so difficult to review — and so difficult for some viewers to fully connect with — is that it is not just a film to be watched and enjoyed in a purely narrative fashion.
Rather, this is a film meant to be experienced as a mind-warping, hallucinogenic trip to and through the depths of psychological hell and back. Juxtaposed with the breathtaking beauty of the film, with sweeping cinematography and masterful camerawork, is a character study in trauma and mental illness.
Through this swirling, dizzying mix of beauty and brutality, community and isolation, tranquility and anxiety, we become disoriented — having no choice but to either disconnect or completely sink into the mystifying experience.
The reviews below are meant to give you a few unique experiences on a film that’s likely to impact every viewer in a completely different way. Just keep in mind that nothing we say can really ready you for the experience of Midsommar. Forget the hype. Forget the hate. Go in clean and with an open mind. Whether it’s the ultimate mind-altering trip or an overly long and meandering road to nowhere, one thing’s for certain: you’re not prepared for this journey.
TAKE ONE: A BREATHTAKING TRIP DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
By Joe Quinones
Midsommar, writer/director Ari Aster’s follow-up to Hereditary proves that he is a force of nature to watch for in the horror industry.
The duality of nature and man is interwoven with themes of trauma, grief, mental illness and the demise of a relationship — expressed here masterfully in order to craft a compelling and visually stunning contemporary fairy tale. The use of wide, sweeping and sometimes dizzying shots amidst the lush, colorful backdrop of the Swedish wilderness form a jarring contrast to the violence that transpires.
The Midnight sun, which is a phenomenon that occurs during summer in which the sun blankets parts of Sweden for a full 24-hour cycle. This provides a unique take on the usual night time tropes seen in horror movies, imbuing a fresh perspective into the genre. Midsommar uses foreshadowing and symbolism via beautiful art, tapestries and runes to provide some insight into the commune and its rituals.
So keep a keen eye on the background, as it weaves its very own companion piece of sorts to this already fascinating odyssey — and quite frankly deserves an entirely separate article in itself!
I went in to this movie with little to no idea what to expect, save for the expectation that it will be half as good as Hereditary before it.
I implore you to do the same; as the suspense of not knowing what our intrepid college students are in store for is part of the journey.
I found many parallels to Lewis Carol’s Alice in Wonderland. From the intense visuals while Psilocybin laden mushrooms are consumed, to the way that Dani’s (played remarkably by Florence Pugh) story is structured. The fact that I can compare this movie to Alice in Wonderland just shows you how talented Ari Aster is at melding fantasy, comedy, horror, and actual Pagan lore into a compelling narrative.
One aspect that may turn some people off to this movie is the run time, which is a girthy 2 hours and 27 mins — standing toe to toe with much faster-paced films like Disney and Marvel’s Avengers movies.
I assure you the run time did not affect me in the slightest, as I was in a perpetual state of wonder from beginning to end. But I did overhear other movie-goers complaining about how long it was. This was most likely due to the fact that you don’t get much action during the first half of the movie, while we get the set up for the cult-like community and its eccentric and theatrical inhabitants.
If you like a slow burner with a great pay off, this one’s for you! However, if you prefer your horror direct, violent and to the point, you may find it lacking. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of the old ultra-violence to go around. It just takes a little while to get there. But, if you’re patient, you will be handsomely rewarded.
In conclusion, if you thought Ari Aster was going to hit a sophomore slump; you are sorely mistaken!
One could even say that Both Hereditary and Midsommar complement each other very well. Both movies take a dark subjective look at relationships. And both movies integrate these personal stories into modern day folk tales that make us look inward while befuddling our senses, not unlike a mushroom trip.
Watch Midsommar, and go in as blind as possible. It’ll be an experience that leaves you speechless. At the very worst, it’s a hell of a ride!