If you're looking for some comfortable viewing to escape darkness in the real world, then Midsommar isn't really for you. This new film, directed by Ari Aster, is often described as a "folk horror" film and it's provoked a lot of discussion. Some critics think that it's ridiculous, and I feel it's over-long, but I also think it repays careful viewing, more than once - if you like this sort of thing, which I do.
One of the finest horror films ever made was The Wicker Man (the original version, that is, with Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee) and in many respects Midsommar borrows from the earlier movie. Outsiders come in to a small, enclosed community which proves to be a pagan cult. Bad stuff happens, culminating in fireworks. So Midsommar is, as Aster has admitted, in some ways very predictable, but what he does with the premise is intriguing.
The story begins with the suicide of the sister of Dani (Florence Pugh), which also leads to the death of the girls' parents. Dani's grief isn't adequately understood by her crass boyfriend Christian (the name is significant, though the symbolism is heavy-handed), who is getting bored with their relationship. In fact, Aster has described this as a sort of horror version of a break-up movie. With some friends, the couple decide to accompany a Swedish college pal, Pelle, to his home commune in Sweden to celebrate a once-every-90-years festival. Bad move...
The filming of the Harga community is visually stunning, and I found this aspect of the movie quite memorable and impressive. The runic symbols, strange buildings, and distinctive landscape all play an important part, as do ancient Norse rituals. And the locals get to watch Austin Powers movies...Yes, the film goes on rather too long, but although it's not for everyone, it's very watchable and several scenes are genuinely horrific. But The Wicker Man is snappier and even better.
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