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MIDSOMMAR gets 7/10 Wicker Romance


Directed by Ari Aster

Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, Vilhelm Blomgre

7/10

The horror in this new “horror” film is particularly elusive. There’s not much tension-building, no real nightmarish imagery, no horrifying bit of introspection into the inner darkness of our souls, and there are certainly no jump-scares. Even the main characters seem to passively go along with the increasingly horrific antics, though in their defence, they are aided by inhibition-lowering psychedelics. Midsommar is so sly and subdued and vague about its horror, that it’s more likely to affect you after the fact rather than during.

This is a horror film that’s certainly set apart from mainstream contemporaries, but it also feels unlike any other horror film, no matter how big or small. Midsommar is set within a remote Swedish commune of rather kooky, but rather friendly folks, who live a life of simplicity, rituals, and their midsummer pagan event, which occurs once every 90 years. So a group of American students decide not to miss out, with Dani (Florence Pugh) tagging along with her reluctant boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), who is travelling with his thesis-preparing friend Josh (William Jackson Harper), along with Mark (Will Poulter) and their Swede guide Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgre).

But don’t think of these folks as young happy-go-lucky experience-seekers. As with writer-director Ari Aster’s last film Hereditary, the horror setting is used to flesh out the more dramatic and difficult tensions between these characters. With a tragedy in Dani’s family aggravating her strained relationship, the tensions between these friends becomes more and more tumultuous, particularly the academic rivals Christian and Josh. They can barely handle psylocibin mushrooms, let alone each other – their passive aggressiveness, with so much being said in what’s not said, just may be the scariest component of this film.

But the actual horror is the very slow and gradual reveal of how kooky (as in horrifyingly kooky) these commune members really are. The rituals and their outcomes seem telegraphed and not hard to predict, as if they’re cementing the twisted fates of these Americans from an earlier point. This does alleviate the horror to almost a total extent, but the deterministic nature of this film’s horror is embedded in the tapestries that appear throughout the commune, and one of which that makes up Midsommar’s opening shot. They seem to tauntingly spell out plot-points further down the film, yet still have you second-guessing.

If not a horror film, Midsommar could be labelled a comedy – an unromantic-comedy – as this break-up film has its fair share of cringey, yet painfully hilarious, break-up moments that may cause some haunting flashbacks for viewers who have gone through something similar. Just be glad it didn’t occur in the midst of a freaky and creepily joyful pagan setting.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

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