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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz


A Bold Triumph

Ari Aster’s heart-pounding follow-up to last year's Hereditary, Midsommar, is an epic drumroll of definitional terror. The brilliance of Midsommar comes from how its filmmaking qualities were approached. The camera angles were revolutionary and the buildup was the best I've ever seen in a horror film.

I find buildup to be a very important ingredient for any horror recipe. What makes Midsommar’s buildup so appetizing was its reversal of traditional dramatic events. The start of a perfect horror is always the calm before the storm but the petrifying disturbance of Midsommar is about the storm before the calm. The complexity of Midsommar (and it’s running time of 147 minutes) requires me to go into details that are a bit longer than that of my previous reviews.

Midsommar opens by introducing us to Dani Ardor, (Lady Macbeth’s Florence Pugh whose performance has officially secured her future in cinema) a Utah psychology graduate student who has just received an email from her bipolar sister Terri. Terri is still living at home with their parents whom she constantly fights with. Terri’s email says that she’s had enough and she’s taking mom and dad with her. Dani repeatedly reaches out to Terri and her parents over the phone but none of them answer.

Dani than calls her boyfriend Christian Hughes (Jack Reynor) who is hanging out with his friends, Josh, (William Jackson Harper) Mark (Will Poulter) and the Swedish Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren). He insists Terri has always enjoyed the attention and by freaking out, Dani’s just giving her what she wants.

Christian’s talk with his friends after talking with Dani and perfectly explains their relationship. Both of them know the breakup is coming but they're going through all the familiar stages anyway. Dani is a very interesting woman but she comes with a lot of baggage that she feels guilty about and Christian wants no part of.

His friends remind him that he's wanted out of the relationship for a year and that he should just break up with Dani and get it over with. At this very moment, Christian answers another call from Dani whose hysterically screaming and sobbing having just received news from an unknown number of the WORST possible outcome.

Six months later, Christian is still with the grieving Dani not out of love but an obligation. Dani soon learns Christian is planning on going with Josh, Mark, and Peele to attend a nine-day midsummer festival at Pelle’s ancestral commune in northern Sweden. Having been caught in concealing the trip from her, he invites her to come to Sweden as well. Much to Josh and Mark’s chimerism, Dani decides to go.

The commune looks like paradise as it is in a gorgeous meadow in broad daylight with cozy living quarters and welcoming Swedens. Of course, it's all too good to be true as, throughout the nine days, the events grow more weird, troubling and violent.

While Midsommar is a fictional film, the festival itself is real. The violence isn't obvious but the traditional aspects of it were a tremendous help to Ari Aster whose dedication and commitment to research concluded in the unraveling of what is probably one of the scariest films of the decade.

Horror is known to be a night genre and I can promise you, a daytime setting does nothing to make you less traumatized. It does, however, provide a very new approach to violence which eventually spirals out of control.

Again, the buildup is very important because it takes a very long time for Midsommar to get violent but when it does, your mentally in it for the long haul. Aside from buildup, there's also backstory. All the events prior to Dani’s arrival in Sweden were so essential to the story because her trauma left her feeling numb. Her arrival, however, sparks a mental unraveling of epic proportions.

Her relationship with Christian continues to deteriorate but it's not through arguments. It's through tension. Uncomfortable tension that occasionally blinds them both to the shocking insanity swirling all around them.

I read that Florence Pugh is terrified of scary movies which are precisely why her performance is all the more Oscar-worthy. For someone stepping out of her comfort zone, she was so convincing and spot-on every step of the way.

Jack Reynor did a remarkable job as well because his performance is a reminder that true audiences feelings towards a character are never about whether you like them or not. It's about what level of intensity they bring to the story and how much they contribute.

I would not recommend Midsommar to anyone who has not seen Hereditary. Perhaps, this recommendation will result in a major population of people not seeing Midsommar but it's a recommendation that just has to be made. Ari Aster is so new to the public eye and his films have a certain technique, a certain choreography. People who understand him as a filmmaker will soar like an eagle towards the excellence of Midsommar. Anyone else who is seeking only to be entertained needn't waste their time. Midsommar is for the cinephile with the strongest stomach and the highest level of patience.

The violence in this film is explosively disturbing. I have a very strong stomach for violence but even I can determine that Midsommar is beyond excessive which is good because the story itself is excessive. Nevertheless, it's not the violence that makes Ari Aster’s films so horrifying. It's how close to reality they are. Drama horrors are always more frightening because they have the ability to be personal.

The emotional aspect of drama horrors is what makes them scary, not violence. Horror is not about the stab, it's about twisting the knife. Any horror film can have a stab but how often do you see the emotional knife twisted over and over again in a broken heart?

Overall, Midsommar is a triumph because it accomplished everything it set out to do. Midsommar is a bold outfit choice of a film that's sewed with elegant fabrics that will keep you thinking about it long after you've hung it up in your wardrobe.

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