Midsommar is the horror film I needed right now. 2019 has been a bust for the most part and I’ve waited for a film to drop in my lap. That’s not to say that I haven’t seen smaller films that caught my attention. But, this mid summer release entertained me out of my gourd.
Let it be no secret that I low-key hated Hereditary. If it would have been marketed as a comedy, I could have got onboard. Yet, I watched Film Twitter and certain readers fawn all over it. From the reaches of AV Central, locals could hear me cackle WATCH MORE HORROR! Well, something happened.
Director Ari Aster improved dramatically with his follow-up feature. Midsommar is going to be unfairly compared to The Wicker Man. That’s what happens when you have a slower paced film with a frentic conclusion. People only remember the last reel and never that accurately. But, what are you going to do?
Taking a step back, I want to praise Florence Pugh. She’s been having a great 2019 and Midsommar is no exception. In the film, she plays the deeply bothered Dani. This young lady has a reason to be so bothered, she’s trying to escape her grief on a half-baked vacation. Her sister died rather suddenly and her relationship has all but died as well. Yet, she’s going to Europe with her guy to try and see what they can save.
All we needed was a Wendy Carlos knock-off score and this movie could’ve been released in the 70s or 80s. While the Americans give you footing in the modern world, there’s something to behold in the rural Swedish cult. From the incest child prophet to the meat pies and the ceremonies, we’re treading into something long forgotten in our shared horror experience.
The Urban Fear of the Rural Unknown is untapped in this modern era. In an age where cellphones and the Internet connect everyone, we don’t let our fiction dabble into the unfamiliar. Those regions where life continues on its rules without the interference of prying eyes.
Watching how Will Poulter is handled for messing with a tree is something primal. In an Eli Roth film, the effort would be to imitate 80s schlock or Eurotrash horror from the era. However, Aster takes it somewhere different. When an American dies in this film, it’s a natural hive mind correcting an interloper.
Did I forget to mention that the film’s central villains are basically a giant rural hive? The Hargas (that’s what the crazy Swedes are called) function in a way that is completely alien to the average Westerner. Divorcing oneself as an individual to join a tribe doesn’t computer with the modern existence. Much like Dani choking on the offered piece of herring, you can’t force an outsider to adapt to something that their body has been trained to find repugnant.
That’s when we have to focus on Jack Reynor’s character. If you thought he was sympathetic in Sing Street, then he might disgust you here. Honestly, I don’t think he’s a bad guy. He’s a guy that wanted out of something and is now taking the worst possible way to handle it. In that sense, he’s a real world villain. Not a traditional bad guy, but a good person that handles things in a shitty manner.
The idea to name him Christian shouldn’t be lost on anyone. For if anything, this is a film about returning to nature. Not in the cute hippie way, but in the brutal Pagan sense. The fact that his dismay and newfound pain are central to the film is a bit on the nose. But, let’s get back to talking about Pugh’s Dani.
Dani isn’t a heroine. She’s a lost soul discovering purpose among the forgotten. I’ve seen many misinterpret what she does as a way of condoning the actions that happen in the film. That’s a very childish way of going about things. What Dani does in Midsommar is collapse.
It’s very important that we see Dani as a grieving figure desperate for anyone to offer support. All of her American friends see her as a burden for Christian to unload. Christian can’t figure out what she needs and keeps forcing all the wrong solutions upon her. When they don’t work, he looks for the next outlet to take her off his hands. Damn there goes that metaphor again.
By the end of the film, when Dani finds a way to channel her grief…it makes sense. In a way, this might the first solid lady focused horror film since Altman delivered Images upon the world. I have to respect the guts of A24 and Aster to release a film like this on July 4th weekend. But, damn if I’m not excited to discuss the film with an ever-expanding audience.
For those that love real horror and not some creepy dolls, check out Midsommar immediately. You won me over, Aster. I’m a fan now.