Midsommar ★★★½

Midsommar is better than Hereditary because it's more coherent overall, but Midsommar shares a lot with Ari Aster's first film: the emphasis on over-the-top emotions (especially grief), evil older women, and batshit-crazy endings.

Midsommar borrows (too much?) from the original 1973 "Wicker Man"(though it's not as good), but it's unique in how it's all shot in one place and focuses on a small group of outsiders rather than just one man. The isolated or outsider group dynamic makes it more like classic horror film, while the deteriorating relationship between Christian & Dani - how that plays into each of their fates - is unique.

There seem to be several films featuring cults lately, which is appropriate given it's the 50th anniversary of the Manson murders in August. Harga, the Swedish cult in Midsommar, hearkens the Manson family in its recruitment process, i.e., sending hipsters into the world to bring back new blood to Harga, in addition to its drug use and sex rituals. Perhaps one of the most striking moments in the film - besides the ending - is the Ättestupa ritual. You could call this the inauguration moment for the new group - their "we're not in Kansas anymore" moment - but for viewers too. Up until then everything seems relatively cool.

I love the 180 degree vertical tilt as the kids drive into Harga. The upside-down shot makes for perfect foreshadowing; the kids take a mushroom trip almost immediately on arrival. Actually one of the creepiest elements of the film is all the drugs; I can't imagine what a strange/horrifying trip it would be in THAT setting with THOSE people!

My main critiques are that Midsommar is a too long, partly derivative, and actually too funny. It seemed like Aster wanted the film to be more terrifying, if the marketing is anything to go by, but in the theatre the audience laughed more than anything. That made it difficult to buy into the horror, which is a shame. I think I would've loved this film more if it were scarier. But as it is, it's still good, unhinged paganism and a fun watch.

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