Updated: Sep 4
The latest horror film by Ari Astar, “Midsommar” is about a handful of Americans that vacation in a secluded Swedish location. A Swedish friend brings these innocent folks to his ‘hometown’ in the middle of nowhere. Dani, played by rising star, Florence Pugh (“Fighting with the Family”), is a lost soul seeking a sense of community and belonging. Her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor) reluctantly told her that he was invited to go to Sweden with his guy friends. You get the feeling it was just going to be the guys venturing to a land full of blondes. Christian is a mixed bag. After Dani lost her parents because her bipolar sister killed them and herself, Christian stayed close to comfort her. His guy friends, young promiscuous college kids, have been telling Christian to dump her sad, depressing ass.
When Dani finds out Christian is leaving in 2 weeks to go away with his buddies without her they argue. Christian ends up inviting Dani to tag along with them on their adventure. Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) sold his friends on the concept that his home is a loving, peaceful village full of tranquility. As soon as the group arrives, they run into some of Pelle’s ‘family friends’ whom also brought guests. Immediately, drugs are offered. Dani, reluctant, doesn’t want to ruin the timing of the trip so they’re all tripping at the same time.
After the ‘trip’ they reach the homestead where there are only a few buildings. A large group of people are performing some sort of dance, wearing clothes you might find in Amish country. The group is notified of some rules. One building is where everyone in the village sleeps up until age 36. 36? There are numerous beds and no privacy. Another building is completely off limits. Photography is not permitted.
Things and customs seem a little bit strange, but Dani and Cristian’s friends stay optimistic and positive about their experience. And then things take a horrific turn when a big event takes place early one morning. The group of friends are not told by Pelle or anyone else what was about take place in this ritual. There was a slight hint by an older male member of the group that when you reach a certain age you no longer exist. He made a swiping hand gesture across his neck. This older couple, roughly in their 70’s, walked out to the edge of a cliff a few stories high. One by one they sacrificed themselves, falling face first onto large rocks that split open their faces and crushed their bodies. Dani and Christian and their friends looked on in horror. The actual horror are the grins and smiles on the faces of all the residents of this twisted place.
Soon other guests complain about the festivities. Dani and Cristian are told lies about the other guests and why they’re suddenly missing. Slowly, this vacation unravels the evil that is an agenda Pelle is a part of with the community. The friends learn that all these activities are a part of one big 90-year mysterious celebration. The residents have a lot more in store whether the guests like it or not. I’m not going to give away the ending, but to quote another horror film from 2019, “This is going to end badly.” (‘The Dead Don’t Die’).
It’s obvious to me now why Jordan Peele was so excited about this horror flick. In many ways, “Midsommar” is a lot like “Get Out.” In both films, one person or a group of unsuspecting friends are invited to stay with their friend or significant other’s family. You’ve spent a year or more with this person and think you know everything about them until they invite you to certain death and/or torture.
The writer/director, Ari Astar, seems to have a thing for cults, human noises and nakedness. After seeing “Midsommar” in the theaters I was compelled to rent his first feature horror film, “Hereditary” starring Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne. In “Hereditary” Collette’s character, Annie, learns that her deceased mother was a part of a group of mediums. Annie’s strange, lonesome, daughter, Charlie, likes making a noise with her tongue and the roof of her mouth. It lets her family members know when she as a ghost is around. The villagers often mimic others’ cries of pain and anguish throughout “Midsommar.”
When it’s known that Annie’s mother in “Hereditary” was part of this cult of mediums, scenes of nakedness pop up. In “Midsommar,” artwork is everywhere in the village. It seems to share the unfolding story of the people and events that are about to take place. You may even want to see the film a second time to see just how much the images give clues.
Ari Astar also likes to use cinematography as a device. In both films, there’s a point when the stories have been set up and things are about to take a drastic turn…upside down. So, everything must go upside down. And I love how the film gets more and more trippy. The audience too has unknowingly been sipped the mushroom drink. The visual effects are magnificent! Go witness the trip!