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Midsommar – Movie Review

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Midsommar – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

With his feature directing debut Hereditary, Ari Aster showed how grief affects a family and how they attempt to cope. There was an unsettling quality to that film, which also had its fair share of grotesque imagery. With Midsommar, Aster has heightened the shock value and provides the audience with plenty of surreal visuals that would have immediately gotten the movie banned in several territories in the 1980s. There is plenty of visual cleverness and he makes good use of his young cast. However, Midsommar also takes a simple plot and stretches it to unnecessary lengths and one can’t help but feel a certain distance from what is transpiring on-screen.

Like Hereditary, Midsommar shows grief manifesting in the central protagonist Dani. Her want to escape and clear her head makes it understandable why she would join her boyfriend in Sweden for an unusual getaway. That allows Dani to be a sympathetic character among a group of largely archetypes, including the dedicated academic and the brash woman chaser with no filter. Florence Pugh deserves to be commended for showing the multiple emotions Dani goes through and the effective way she can change from enthusiastic to depressed. In the classic horror film tradition, there are times when characters should leave, but don’t. The movie does play with that cliché, though.

Aster fills the movie with plenty of scenes meant to evoke an unsettling feeling, although none quite get there. The movie throws so many disturbing visuals at the audience that most might need to sit down afterwards. Some of these are certainly horrifying, but they definitely exist for the sake of being weird and to make certain viewers want to throw up. One of the best qualities of Midsommar comes from Pawel Pogorzelski’s cinematography. There are moments when the camera is standing still, especially when the characters are merely talking, and it’s a smart creative move. The panning shots are also inventive, especially when a long tapestry telling a story is revealed.

At two hours and twenty minutes, Midsommar could have been considerably cut down. Aster definitely intends the movie to be a slow burn, but there are times when the story really needs to hurry up. It gets repetitive after a while seeing the same scenes of the community members doing something slightly creepy and plenty of those sequences just amount to saying “isn’t Swedish culture weird?” Even then, the scenes that attempt to scare the audience are more shocking than actually frightening. There are moments that will remain unforgotten when reflecting back on Midsommar, but more due to the audacity that Aster was able to get away with them.

Watching Midsommar, it’s easy to tell Ari Aster owes a certain debt to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. There is even a visual homage to the famous Overlook Hotel carpet patterns from that iconic horror film. However, evoking Kubrick does come with its own risks. Midsommar does impress on a technical and filmmaking level, but falls short on the story front and in evoking the necessary unsettling quality. It is one thing to create shocking revelations and spraying the audience with blood and guts, but there needs to be more underneath the surface. This is a clever B-movie idea that has been unnecessarily given an epic length it can’t quite sustain.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison