In 2018 Ari Aster‘s debut feature film “Hereditary” became one of the biggest box office hits of the year. Now to be perfectly honest I was on the whole disappointed with it. Although there were some aspects that showed Ari Aster to maybe be a very exciting film-maker who could bring something new to the horror genre. Now his second feature film has been released theatrically.
This sceptical reviewer who had lost faith in mainstream multiplex horror is extremely happy to say Midsommar was by far a more fulfilling film than Hereditary, and easily one of my best films of 2019.
24 hours later while writing this review I was still stunned by what I had seen. Days later I am still thinking about it and expect to be for quite a long time.
“Midsommar” is far more assured and has none of the faults of Hereditary but has all of the positive elements, and then some. Gone are the mainstream crowd pleasing aspects that at times made “Hereditary” a very generic horror film.
“Midsommar” feels like the intelligent adult horror film Ari Aster wanted to make with Hereditary but knew he had to include elements to appeal to a wider audience. By the time he came to make “Midsommar” he could realise his vision without compromise. Not surprisingly as “Hereditary” was such a huge box office hit the studio was so obviously more than happy to finance whatever he wanted to do next and give him full creative freedom.
“Midsommar” is anchored by an incredible performance from Florence Pugh, that alongside her other roles will over time see her compared to the all-time great actors. The depth and complexity of her performance is on a par with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino at their intense and committed best. A performance that captivates and grabs the heart from the very first scenes. She has that rare ability to project so much more with a gesture or a look than with long monologues. Ari Aster obviously knew that she could pull off the complexities of the character because of the nuanced performances she has displayed in all her roles to date.
“Midsommar“, like some aspects of “Hereditary“, is a very thought provoking horror film that beautifully explores loss, grief, family, relationships, and empathy. Ari Aster describes it as a break up movie, but it is so much more than that.
On the surface a folk horror film inspired by, and easily as good as, “The Wicker Man“, drawing from Swedish, Norse, and European folklore. A character driven slow build dread horror film, with the main characters being three dimensional and perfectly fleshed out. Containing some of the most genuinely disturbing and gut-wrenching scenes in a mainstream horror film in recent memory. With images that linger in the mind long after the film has ended and will not be easily forgotten.
“Midsommar” is not a horror film for everyone, but for those who are looking for something more than just a jump scare thrill ride you will not be disappointed at all. Some of the audience who were at the screening I was at did not seem to get it because they were obviously expecting a horror film similar in style to “Hereditary“, which “Midsommar” most definitely is not.
Every aspect of the film is superb. Brilliantly written and directed by Ari Aster. Stunning cinematography by Pawel Pogorzelski, with purposefully precise framing of every single shot that accentuates the amazing production design by Henrik Svensson. The impressive CGI effects are so subtle at times that they go unnoticed but are used perfectly to pull the viewer into the experiences of the characters. All of these aspects are complimented by the outstanding sound design by Ru Garcia and a hauntingly sublime musical score by Bobby Krlic.
“Midsommar” touched me like no other horror film since Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s “Spring“. A complex character driven adult horror film the like of which we need more of.
Ari Aster could well be the film-maker who brings intelligent horror back to the mainstream.
I am extremely excited and really cannot wait to see what Ari Aster does next.