Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Review: "Midsommar" is Both Familiar and Freaky

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 9 (of 2020) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

Midsommar (2019)
Running time:  147 minutes (2 hours, 27 minutes)
MPAA – R for disturbing ritualistic violence and grisly images, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language
PRODUCERS:  Patrik Andersson and Lars Knudsen
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Pawel Pogorzelski   
EDITOR:  Lucian Johnston
COMPOSER: Bobby Krlic


Starring:  Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Vilhelm Blomgren, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, Ellora Torchia, Archie Madekwe, Henrik Norlen, Gunnel Fred, Isabelle Grill, Agnes Rase, Mats Blomgren, and Hampus Hallberg

Midsommar is a 2019 horror film written and directed by Ari Aster.  The film follows a group of friends that travel to Sweden to visit a isolated village and attend its mid-summer festival only to find themselves in the clutches of a pagan cult.

Midsommar introduces college student, Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh), who has recently been traumatized by a bizarre family tragedy.  Dani is also involved with an emotionally-distant boyfriend, Christian Hughes (Jack Reynor), and the incident with Dani's family further strains their tenuous relationship.  Dani learns that in the upcoming summer, Christian and his friends, Mark (Will Poulter) and Josh (William Jackson Harper), have been invited by their Swedish friend, Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), to accompany him to Sweden.

There, the group will travel to Pelle's ancestral commune, the Harga, in Halsingland and experience a midsummer celebration, a nine-day feast, that occurs every 90 years.  Christian reluctantly invites Dani to come along.  As soon as the group arrives, however, bizarre and horrible things begin to happen, and some of their friends begin to disappear.  Will Dani and her friends uncover the truth about this idyllic village in time to save themselves?

Midsommar is the second feature film from writer-director Ari Aster, who wowed audiences with his 2018 film, Hereditary (which I have not yet seen).  Midsommar is creepy, bizarre, troubling, and unsettling.  Some of the film has stayed with me in the eight hours since I finished watching it, and I can't stop thinking about both some of its scenes and some of the pagan practices, rituals, and iconography depicted in the film.  Midsommar is a beautiful looking film, especially the costumes of the Harga villagers, the flower arrangements, and the sets.

That said, much of Midsommar is a reworking of decades-old films that have dealt with murderous pagan cults.  That includes the British films, Eye of the Devil (1966) and The Wicker Man (1973), and also the 1978, two-part NBC miniseries, “The Dark Secret of Harvest Home” (1978).  In fact, I recognized a lot of ideas in Midsommar that are similar to plot threads in “The Dark Secret of Harvest Home,” which was based on Thomas Tyron's 1973 novel, Harvest Home.

So Midsommar is good and creepy and unsettling and disturbing.  However, it isn't so much original as it is the revival of genre of cult movies that are about cults.  If you have not seen the earlier films, Midsommar is a good place to start.

6 of 10

Friday, April 10, 2020

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