Midsommar is writer/director Ari Aster's sophomore followup to last year's truly unsettling horror film Hereditary. I gave Hereditary good notice even though I found it upsetting and even depressing. However, the movie stayed with me - haunting me, if you will - and I liked it even better on a second viewing. Midsommar is a good second feature that is quite terrifying, but I think I like Hereditary a bit more.
College student Dani (Florence Pugh in an intense performance.) suffers a family tragedy and wants nothing more than to seek solace in the arms of her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor). However, Christian is planning a trip to Sweden with his buddies, but soon the guys begrudgingly allow Dani to tag along. When they first arrive at the rural Swedish village, it appears like an idyllic Amish-like community, but eventually it reveals itself as a pagan cult, and Midsommar morphs into a slasher film of sorts. Aster owes much to The Wicker Man (The British 1973 Robin Hardy directed cult classic and not the 2006 Neil LaBute/Nicolas Cage/"Not the bees!" debacle.) and probably a little to Ted Kotcheff's Australian thriller Wake in Fright (1971).
You know where Midsommar is going, but the punchline is surprising. Watch carefully and you will see that the most important aspect of the movie is the relationship between Dani and Christian.
The film gets very gory, and while some of the practical effects are not the most convincing, I wholeheartedly take them over CGI blood and guts any day of the week. Then there is a sex scene that is far from erotic. It's actually pretty grotesque.
Aster likes to take the long way around (Midsommar runs Two-hours and 27-minutes), so some viewers may become frustrated with his slow, slow burn approach. And yes, at several junctures I was hoping that the movie would just get on with it. However, I still found the film intriguing and its tone consistently and relentlessly ominous.