"...suggest that the nuclear families can be more horrific than vampires or serial killers...."

A Stylish Horror Film About Grief and Rebirth

(072719) Midsommar is an art film/folk horror flick that mostly takes place in Sweden even though much of it was shot in Hungary. I was tempted to write it plays out like modernized Ingmar Bergman directed version of the pagan fright flick, The Wicker Man , but that is probably a little too generous (To see a real classic quasi horror film directed by the Swedish master check out the classic Hour of the Wolf.)

The first three plus hour cut of the film was originally rated NC17, so it was recut into a shorter less explicit version. One of the complaints was frequent full male nudity. The MPAA board has much less of a problem with female nudity which shows their peculiar gender double standard. The longer version is set to be released on DVD. It is safe to say neither cut of the film still would make ideal Christmas viewing for most families.

Ari Aster, whose debut feature was the suspenseful satanic themed horror flick, Hereditary, served as the film’s director. Midsommar is solid, stylish and decently done effort, but it never quite reaches that crazed creative heights of its predecessor, and it contains less surprises. Like that film, Midsummer explores the concept of extreme grief caused by death and both films suggest that the nuclear families can be more horrific than vampires or serial killers.

Midsommar stars Florence Hugh who looked totally different playing a wrestler in this year’s earlier comedy film Fighting with the Family, which I also recommend. Her performance in Midsommar is unlabored, confident and convincing. Her co-lead Jack Reynor of the web series, Strange Angels is rather restrained and he makes less of a big impression.

The main character of the film, Dani (well played by Hugh) is a troubled college student who constantly gets frantic, panicked texts from her mentally disturbed sister, which serve to disrupt her life.

She in turn depends heavily on her not terribly committed boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), but he does not always give her the emotional support she needs. She does not know this, but he constantly complains to his friends about her, but he cannot quite find the strength to dump her.

This situation gets even more desperate when her unbalanced sister kills herself, along with Dani’s parents. Now Christian is all she has left in the world. He feels so bad for her that when some friends ask him to go to a pagan festival in Sweden, he asks her along knowing that she might drag him down with her.

When Dani, Christian and some of his college friends arrive most of them accept an offer to trip on psychedelic mushrooms. Mushrooms have long been seen as mystical pathways to knowledge in many cultures. The late Emperor Nero called mushrooms “a gateway to paradise” or knowledge, and I recently ran into an artist who believed that taking magic mushrooms could connect you to ancestral memory or cross-cultural archetypes (for more on that see the film Altered States).

However, the mushroom sequence, which is quite memorable, is mostly an excuse to display some fancy, experimental camera work. After hesitantly taking mushrooms Dani imagines plants growing out of her hands which indirectly foreshadows the ending. This reminded me somewhat of Vegetarian Vampires, the evocative painting by Remedios Varo which depicted men with orange plants growing out of them (The director has even admitted he was influenced by the work of Varo.)

One of the Swedish men, the shaggy haired Josh definitely has eyes for Dani, and he starts ingratiating himself to her, and subtly suggesting that he would be a better Romantic partner than Christian (in a way he might also be proposing that she pick paganism over Christianity.) However, on the other side there is also a pale pagan woman who tries to drug and bewitch Christian into falling for her.

Will Dani and Christian’s relationship survive? In the end, I cared, but I was not quite as emotionally invested in the characters, as I should have been. Perhaps the characters are too distant, and overall the film was more successful on an intellectual than an emotional level.

Directed/Written by:   Ari Aster

Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper

Released:    070319
Length:    147 minutes
Rating:    Rated R, Disturbing ritualistic violence and grisly images, strong sexual content, graphic nudity,

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org
and www.chicagopoetry.org plus look for his recent book Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor

MIDSOMMAR © 2019  B-Reel Films
Review © 2019 Alternate Reality, Inc.