Last year, Ari Aster’s directorial debut Hereditary divided audiences and drew sharp responses from all in how they interpreted the film. Personally, I took Hereditary as a fresh, thoughtful, and bizarre interpretation of horror that bucked the gimmicky trend of franchise horrors and cheap jump scares, such as those within the Conjuring Universe. Because of this, it was one of my favorite thrillers and one of my favorite movies of the year.
This year, Aster’s follow-up is bigger, better, and even more disturbing. Midsommar delightfully thrills and terrifies and, just like Hereditary, it is dividing audiences.
Reeling from a sudden tragedy, Dani (Florence Pugh) finds herself lost and unsure. She’s suffering from depression, and it’s clear that she hasn’t done much of anything since losing her family. The relationship with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) is strained, and they’ve been growing distant, but Christian feels trapped and doesn’t want to abandon Dani in her grief.
During this time, Christian decides that he is going to Sweden with his friends for midsummer celebrations and Dani, upon learning about it, decides to invite herself and tag along. Christian’s friends are Josh (William Jackson Harper), who is writing a thesis on midsummer traditions and culture, Mark (Will Poulter), sarcastic and wisecracking, and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), who grew up in the village the group is going to.
What ensues is bizarre, disturbing, and absolutely mindboggling as the horror genre is cast into near-constant daylight with little room to hide in the shadows. This, in many ways, makes the story more eery. Ari Aster also expertly uses foreshadowing throughout the film. Keeping an eye on the artwork, references made by characters, and small behavioral traits pay off in the end as they all come together. While there are plenty of surprises, the foreshadowing gives many clues and offers plenty of, “Oh yeah,” moments that make the viewing experience much more enjoyable.
Florence Pugh’s performance is expressive and chilling. She effectively transforms herself from a character who is dependent and broken to somebody who is something else entirely. Whether it’s a good thing is up for audience interpretation. Jack Reynor also does a great job as the unwilling and, perhaps, unfaithful boyfriend. Reynor has openly expressed a passion for film, and it’s clear he applies this to his style of acting.
Midsommar, as it stands, is an excellent follow-up to Hereditary, and Ari Aster has made it a cleaner, more technical, and more impressive production. Unlike Hereditary, there aren’t really any loose ends, and there’s a sense of finality in the end, even if it’s bewildering. Ari Aster has said that he’s working on a director’s cut of the film, adding an additional thirty minutes to the movie, so hopefully, that elevates it even further.