by Dillan-James Carter
Midsommar has all the makings of a toff’s gap yah; a group of pretentious students off abroad to broaden their horizons with some simple country folk that have reached enlightenment through drug fuelled traditions. This is where the similarities end. Director Ari Aster has created a film which breaks the mould of a traditional horror flick featuring characters with depth and a story laced with empathy for the human condition.
Midsommar begins with Dani (Florence Pugh), a student recently hit with an immense tragedy of losing her family, who finds herself in a growingly strained relationship with boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). With a breakup on the cards, Christian, pressured more so by his university mates Mark (Will Poulter) and Josh (William Jackson Harper) to ditch her for their plans of a Scandinavian ‘sexcation’, makes an awkward compromise to bring Dani with them. However, their Magaluf fantasy turns into a trip to the Swedish Summer isle, in which they take part in a festival held by a local cult every 90 years.
What Ari Aster has created is something truly extraordinary in managing to combine the surreal with the all too real experience of life. Dani’s isolation and grief are not something we just witness, but rather share – much like the shared pain of the cult members themselves – and the constant fear of the film is tied in with this emotional desolation. In some ways the time the group spends in Hälsingland feels like the tumultuous climb back to normality, as far as normality can be found in the land of heavy breathing and pensioner suicides.
The film itself is not classically scary; there are no wild chase scenes and no calls coming from within the yurt. But its unnerving to the nth degree with most of the film set in daylight and the soft pastel colour palette, it always manages to ease into the uncomfortable. At other times the film is funny with the scumbag Mark quipping and making already tense social settings awkward.
A relationship drama disguised as a wicker man redux, Midsommar is the horror movie with heart making Ari Aster a director to watch out for now more than ever.