Midsommar

 

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Following Hereditary, his critically acclaimed debut, Ari Aster now comes up with a charming, sunny nightmare of unimaginable consternation.

 

Midsommar

Funny games: Florence Pugh and her maidens

       

Ari Aster, whose first film Hereditary (2018) was met with universal acclaim, now delivers a horror film that inverts all the tropes of the genre. He has truly broken the rules. Instead of dark, nocturnal places, he give us sun-lit meadows. Instead of creepy, sallow girls with too much black hair, he brings us cheerful maidens with golden tresses and beatific smiles. And he’s given his film a Swedish title, includes subtitles and brings it in at just under two-and-a-half hours.

 

Much of the film’s impact rests on its ability to surprise, to shock. But because Aster takes his own sweet time to set up every abomination, the viewer is invariably a step or two ahead of him. Where he does excel is with his choice of actors and with his manipulation of a medium he knows and loves so well. Instead of shredding the onlooker’s nerves with cacophonous music (cf. Dario Argento’s Suspiria), he opens up a chasm of disquiet with absolute silence. Initially, at least, he also offers creditable dialogue, particularly in the early scenes when our heroine, Dani (Florence Pugh), is attempting to salvage her relationship with Christian (Jack Reynor). The Irish actor Reynor, who bears an uncanny likeness to a young Seth Rogen, is entirely plausible as the mature student who reluctantly invites his girlfriend on a boys’ trip to a remote Scandinavian hinterland. As Dani, Florence Pugh provides the emotional focus, her character resisting the indiscreet indifference of Christian’s close friend Mark (Will Poulter). And all three actors nail their American accents with aplomb.

 

Structurally, the film is a little awkward and the first act (set in Salt Lake City) sits uneasily with the next two hours in which bizarre Swedish rituals infiltrate the characters’ comfort zone. Yet for all its failings, Midsommar remains a benchmark horror film. For once, the tables are turned on the American visitors to foreign soil and when the evil comes, it arrives with an uncharacteristic warmth and sunny countenance, enshrouding its victims in a blaze of floral glory. The 18 certificate is well deserved and the film unquestionably exerts a hallucinatory power and queasiness.

 

Now that Aster has our attention – and the blessing of first-rate actors – he might like to come up with a satisfying storyline for his next horror show.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Will Poulter, Ellora Torchia, Archie Madekwe, Henrik Norlén, Gunnel Fred, Isabelle Grill, Agnes Westerlund Rase, Julia Ragnarsson, Mats Blomgren.

 

Dir Ari Aster, Pro Lars Knudsen and Patrik Andersson, Screenplay Ari Aster, Ph Pawel Pogorzelski, Pro Des Henrik Svensson, Ed Lucian Johnston, Music The Haxan Cloak, Costumes Andrea Flesch.

 

Square Peg/B-Reel Films-Entertainment Film Distributors.

147 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 3 July 2019. Cert. 18.