Midsommar (2019)

Genres - Horror, Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Sadistic Horror  |   Release Date - Aug 9, 2019 (USA)  |   Run Time - 147 min.  |   Countries - Sweden, United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Paul Mammano

Artistically crafted in its own unique and disturbing way, director Ari Aster's Midsommar delivers a visually unnerving story of true believers, quasi-demonic rituals, and strange elements that resonate with the darker side of the human imagination.

Realizing their relationship is on a downturn and on the verge of a break-up, Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) remain together due to a devastating family tragedy. Shortly thereafter, Dani learns that Christian and his friends have been planning a trip to Sweden and to take part in a summer festival located in the quiet countryside. She decides to join them, and soon after their arrival in what is a seemingly peaceful, cultured and relaxing setting offered up by the locals, various festivities and ceremonies begin to unfold that become increasingly disturbing, leaving the novice group to question what this community is all about, what their ultimate intentions are, and if their safety may be at risk.

This film's complexity could have brought about too much confusion and taken away from the quality of a good story, but Midsommar's smartly plotted execution and attention to detail draws upon many artistic disciplines and allows for a tight, bold, and entertaining experience. Adding to an impactful, well thought-out storyline, the relevant back-stories also offer another quality layer of depth, which ties in and plays out well as the story progresses. The main characters themselves are not necessarily mind-blowing in terms of their persona, but the acting holds up and takes the film to where it needs to be in terms of its believability. The supporting cast and background characters also work harmoniously to create a strong sense of authenticity.

Despite the film being a bit drawn out, Midsommar is a testament to excellent filmmaking in that so much detail flows in a linear and cohesive way, ultimately making for a compelling and thought-provoking visual journey. In conjunction with its artistic direction, the cinematography completely captures the emotional and underlying tension throughout, allowing for a powerful and perpetual uneasiness from scene to scene. The music and sound work well to support the narrative and visual effects, and the spectacular set design allows the audience to become immersed in that world, ultimately driving home its realism.

Clearly, the film is not intended for younger audiences, and some adults may even find it a bit over-the-top in terms violence and sexuality. However, it does not push the limits so far that the audience needs to repeatedly turn their heads. The story, as scary as it appears, is what resonates above all. The takeaway message is that what one group of individuals may see as normal, another may see as freakish and undeniably horrific. To that end, Midsommar may very well demonstrate that a cult can be equally viewed as bizarre or normal depending on if it is being looked at from the outside or from an inner perspective.