Midsommar review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Director Ari Aster continues to prove himself as a master of getting under the skin of the audience in the weirdest ways. He manages to tap into something deeply spiritual, sexual, and just viscerally disturbing about humanity as he did in 2018’s Hereditary. Now with Midsommar, he continues to dig into the tragedy of finding one’s self in the wake of tragedy, trying to make sense of the world. Within this surreal swirl of cults and sacrifices, some quiet meaning to life itself may be reached as characters tumble through seeking something more.
The tragedy starts early when Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh) experiences the death of her sister who commits suicide, additionally killing her parents in the process. As a result, Dani is a psychological mess, making it the absolute worst time for her boyfriend Christian Hughes (Jack Reynor) to break it off with her. Realizing that she needs someone after such a traumatic event, he stays with her. But holding down that relationship is proving to be harder and harder with every passing day, making every party most awkward. This makes Christian’s plans with his friends for a trip to Sweden all the more troubling for bringing along a girlfriend who seems both emotionally damaged and on her last leg with the relationships. Not a good spot for both of them.
Their trip, however, is exceptionally unconventional. They spend their vacation within a collective of people staying in open countryside, only a few houses presents and plenty of green scenery around them. But the longer they stay, the more they notice something is amiss. For starters, the sun doesn’t appear to go down during the evening. For two, the people they stay with have weird traditions and foreboding artwork to accompany their rituals. For three, their rituals involve hallucinogenics and suicide. Before the Americans traveling abroad know better, it’s too late; they’re trapped within a cult.
Horror movie logic dictates that these tourists will be murdered by the cult. How the cult goes about doing so is far more intriguing and involves far more than just deciding what weapon to use. In their elaborate scheme of pleasing their fellowship, with secrets brewing beneath their smiles and open nature, they have concocted a blender of sex and torture most complex. They have an open nature that at first seems to free and welcoming only to showcase how this natural philosophy and belief makes acts of cruelty, rape, and flat-out murder seem to be just a part of the culture.
Now, from that description of the cult, one may assume that this means the traveling adults are dismayed by the cult and desire to take it down for its evil ways. Thankfully, the film never becomes that simple. As with Hereditary, this film tries to not only feature the cult winning but how the cult slowly takes hold of its newest members. The more Dani delves the deeper into their weird ways, the more accepting she starts to become of their immoral actions in the same of finding peace. It’s a strange catharsis that oddly enough touches on some hard to grasp the aspect of moving on in this tapestry of awkwardly ritualistic sex and violent sacrifices.
Midsommer is a slow burn of a horrifying and unorthodox horror that rarely relents in its surrealist bent. Loaded with surprises most shocking and emotions most frustrating, it’s the perfect kind of picture that taps into something far more than how horrific it is to watch people burn alive. Some of the best horror of the decade.