Hey, just last week I was saying that I dug the low challenge comfort horror of a certain cursed doll movie and stated I was fine getting my nerves rattled elsewhere. Well, leave it to ARI ASTER the director of the soul-curdling HEREDITARY to take me up on the offer and deliver a giant slice of uncomfortable dread cake covered in the most colorful sprinkles human eyeballs can endure. Love it or lump it, MIDSOMMAR is quite the cinematic experience. It’s visually stunning, emotionally ravaging, weirdly funny and surprisingly satisfying as a covert revenge flick. Much like his previous trepidation fueled puzzle box, MIDSOMMAR is constructed with great precision and you’re sure to find yourself connecting dots hours after you leave the theater. There are so many secondary subliminal images that you may start to doubt your own perception. As someone who is terrified of travel and the prospect of hallucinating, this flick didn’t have a hard time getting under my skin. Have you ever played a video game so long that the images and colors get grafted on the inside of your eyelids and then you’re cursed to see them even when your eyes are closed? This movie did that to me. I feel like got a tattoo in my head.
FLORENCE PUGH is impeccably authentic as Dani, a young woman who is suffering after an unspeakable family tragedy. Afraid to be alone with her torturous feelings she tags along with her increasingly insensitive boyfriend Christian (JACK REYNOR) to Sweden to attend a cult-like commune’s celebration with his shady bros. Once there, the too trusting group (who clearly have never seen THE WICKER MAN) are exposed to various hallucinogens, lovely folk art, assisted (with a mallet) suicide, an inbred oracle, bear abuse, a plethora of impressive flower arrangements and one of the most uncomfortable sex acts ever committed to film (leave the kids at home). It’s really a whole hell of a lot to take in and it’s quite the ordeal at times but somehow Dani’s psychological baggage gets intertwined with the festivities and it’s kind of rewarding to see her work through her pain. Sure, she’s surrounded by lunatics but they’re some of the most empathetic lunatics you could ever meet! It’s also very safe to say that Dani learns that she doesn’t really need her boyfriend Christian as much as she thought she did. It’s a real Oprah “ah-ha” moment except with multiple casualties.
ARI ASTER clearly has a talent for making his audience squirm but what I find so fascinating about him is how adept he is at characters. By the end of the movie, I felt like I had actually met new people and spent real time with them. There’s an incredible exchange early on in which Dani confronts Christian about not being fully honest with her in regards to the impending trip and he so smoothly manipulates her that she ends up apologizing for even asking. Rather than present Christian as a cartoon douchebag begging for a comeuppance, it’s easy to believe that even he’s not aware of how low key toxic their relationship has become. Something tells me that even if this couple decided to stay home something equally horrifying would have found its way to them.
At two and a half hours, MIDSOMMAR is not exactly your Friday night multiplex barnburner and like ASTER’s previous film it’s sure to not be everybody’s cup of laced tea. Having said that, this is no way a retread of the director’s debut. Although it too is committed to dredging up levels of emotional suffering rarely exposed MIDSOMMAR, with its searing brightness, ethereal setting and fish out of water cultural ribbing, is unmistakably its own snarling beast. It’s a trip, in more ways than one, and like surviving a dysfunctional relationship like the one it cleverly dismantles, you might not be the same person when it’s over.