Review: Midsommar

Score: B+

Director: Ari Aster

Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter

Running Time: 140 Minutes

Rated: R

Opening on images of falling snow is the first of many ways Ari Aster tries to disorient you in Midsommar, his provocative follow-up to last year's breakthrough horror flick Hereditary. We begin in the bleak midwinter, as Dani (Florence Pugh) experiences a truly devastating traumatic event, leaning even harder on her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), who was already looking for a way out of their relationship. Six months later, they're still walking on eggshells around each other. Christian has agreed to follow Josh (William Jackson Harper) and Mark (Will Poulter) to Sweden to see the village where Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) grew up. "I invited her, but she's not going to come," Christian warns his buddies. But of course she does, and the rest of the movie is one dizzying, hilarious trip into hell.

Midsommar takes its time in building up the flaws of each of its characters. While some might be bored that it takes a full hour to see anything remotely scary, the methodical approach makes the impact that much deeper. Unfortunately, Midsommar is pretty predictable in a way that Hereditary wasn't. Once it gets going, it's pretty obvious what's going to happen, undercutting some of its intensity. But it makes up for that by being hilarious throughout. Some of the laughter comes from the culture shock of these well-educated by crass Americans thrust into a space that's all about rules and tradition. Some of it comes because what you're witnessing is so uncomfortable all you can do is laugh. And some of it is just straight-up jokes that land. In fact, I'd call this a dark comedy before I call it a horror movie.

But of course it's that too, just not in the way the film is advertised. Most of this is psychological horror: seeing all your worst grown-up fears laid out for you in a place you can't escape. A lot of the screaming comes not from being chased by an imposing figure, but by deeper, existential horrors. Still, the film doesn't feel like homework either. If you want to see some gnarly deaths, this movie has those, though it intentionally keeps many of the major ones off-screen.

But your experience will vary wildly. Midsommar is bound to be the most polarizing wide release since mother! There will be a lot of "WTF did I just watch?" responses, and only some people will mean that in a positive way. But I would gladly take this disturbing trip again.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.