Ben McDonald’s review published on Letterboxd:
David Lynch once said that “a story can be both concrete and abstract”. Over the past decade, arthouse horror has prospered by modestly accelerating away from the concrete and towards the abstract, resulting in terrifying cinematic nightmares centered around issues of grief, trauma, sexuality, and paranoia. Ari Aster has rapidly made a name for himself within this new wave of horror, entering the scene in 2018 with the astoundingly frightening Hereditary, a supernatural slowburn that set itself above the likes of other arthouse favorites like It Follows and The Babadook by refusing to drape its message in easy metaphor. Unlike most other films in this new canon of horror, Hereditary didn’t coat its scares with overt symbolism, using its satanic cult horror instead as a tumorous outgrowth of its toxic relationships, an expressionist portrait of a family imploding under the pressures of grief.
Ari Aster returns only a year later with Midsommar, a marvelous, flawed masterpiece of a follow-up that serves in many ways as a mirror image to his terrifying directorial debut. Although Midsommar differs vastly in tone and locale- trading in the shadowy claustrophobia of a doomed family’s haunted house for the agoraphobic fields of rural Sweden- the film retains much of the patient style and bold storytelling that made its predecessor so memorable. Beginning in a situation so cosmically cruel it would make the darkest moments of Hereditary blush, Midsommar follows Dani (Florence Pugh), a young woman on the edge of being dumped by her distant boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) when family tragedy arises. Spoiling the rapturous specifics of the film’s prologue would ruin its sick fun, but rest assured that it contains some of the ugliest imagery and meanest direction you’ll see all year. It’s a lengthy introduction, but it establishes the mood perfectly, birthing Midsommar in a calamitous nightmare so intense that the rest of the film is a welcome breath of fresh (Swedish) air.