Midsommar is here to completely mess with your head... in a good way
JOE's review of the new horror from the maker of Hereditary, our #1 movie of 2018.
There are going to be a lot of dudes watching this movie and laughing at specific scenes in this movie, and not because it is darkly funny at times (which it very much is), but because they'll be bone-breakingly uncomfortable at realising they are recognising themselves on the screen.
Midsommar kicks off with a full-on kick to the stomach, as Dani (Florence Pugh) is faced with a horrific personal tragedy, and her one remaining pillar of support, boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), has been looking for a way out of the relationship for a while.
Even as she's still in the depths of emotional recovery, he plans a trip to Sweden with his pals - played by Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper, and Vilhelm Blomgren - but never wanting to appear to be the bad guy, invites Dani along too, sure she won't actually go.
Instead, she does tag along, and they soon find themselves in the beautiful, isolated Swedish countryside for a summer festival that only takes place once every 90 years.
What begins as a kind of Burning-Man-But-With-Scandi-Hippies soon begins to reveal itself as something much more sinister, which you're better off experiencing in the same way that Dani does.
Writer and director Ari Aster put us all through the ringer with Hereditary, and anyone who watched that will know that he has a particular knack for two things: getting incredible performances, and keeping the audience completely off-balance throughout.
That is doubly the case here, as Pugh delivers the kind of uniquely powerful performance that will rank her alongside Toni Collette on the "Why aren't they getting nominated for this??" list. Same goes for Reynor, who has probably never been better than he is here, and all the way down, the supporting cast maintain a tremendous level of quality.
At just shy of two-and-a-half-hours, Aster also has a lot of time to keep the audience on their toes. The perma-day setting is mirrored by the movie's own length, as we're never quite sure how far along on this story we really are. He has given himself room to breath, inverting the dark claustrophobia of Hereditary with an ominously bright and spacious world that ensures we see the horror unfolding in front of us.
He also uses some subtle visual trickery to infuse some added trippiness, as this festival is heavily dependent on mushrooms and "special tea", and whenever someone on screen is tripping, Aster works it into what we're seeing, making sure we're on this bad trip with them.
But for all of the gore (of which there is some) and creeping dread (of which there is a lot), it is the human horror that will stick with you the most. It is the recognisable anguish of Dani, a woman so hurt it has made her too fragile to share her grief in case it makes people uncomfortable. And then there's Christian, a toxic fuckboi so perfectly realised you'll swear he is based on the worst person you know.
And when you hear those guys laughing at his misdeeds in the cinema screen, know they're not laughing because it was funny. They're laughing because they know the human horror on show is going to keep them up at night.
Midsommar is in Irish cinemas right now.
Clip via A24