Midsommar ★★

Ugh.

Hereditary was a great film with stellar performances, an effective onslaught of dread, and an interesting exploration of grief through horror. It also concluded with an obnoxious, pseudo intellectual final 10 minutes that would’ve nearly ruined the whole thing if everything before it wasn’t so good. I’m afraid to report that Ari Aster, certainly buoyed by the blank check A24 gave him, embraced those last 10 minutes and produced from its ashes a maddening, 140 minute slog of a film - one that will surely be praised as some sort of profound achievement due to the A24 label slapped on it.

For everything that works, there are ten things that don’t. Most detrimental to the film is the central relationship. In case you don’t get it, the first five minutes make it very, very, very clear - the relationship is falling apart! Alert the press! Pugh (aka Hollywood’s Next Big Star, this is only her 5th best performance) and Reynor are both talented and give it their all, with the former bringing in better results. However, the film has nothing more to say aside from what those first five minutes spell out. The characters and dynamics are so thinly sketched that it’s hard to care about anything that happens to them - it’s honestly painful watching the actors try to make something out of nothing. Also, when your film purports to deal with grief and death in a meaningful way, you need to do better than occasional gore and sophomoric thesis statements or it will be called out for the dismissive, exploitative bullshit it is.

It’s also all just too long and too dull. It’s predictable and repetitive, without much actual intrigue behind the surface level rituals. It feels like half the runtime consists of characters literally wandering around in a field looking for plot. The cult members honestly aren’t even that creepy, they’re boring most of the time. And what is even remotely compelling about, say, the thread about two guys trying to write their theses? I’ve seen better cinema on a webcam. Threads and characters drop like flies, characters frequently make idiotic decisions, and scenes that serve no purpose other than to shock are sprinkled throughout - all with blatant disregard for effective pacing. The horrid pacing robs the film of any momentum and sustained comedic effectiveness, the latter of which is perhaps the one thing it has going for it at the start. So what are you left with? A final act that bloviates and pounds its chest like it’s the second, third, and fourth coming of Jesus Christ, sure to be lapped up by a crowd that will lambast you for “not getting it” - it’s okay, though. Even though this was a complete waste of time, at least you can rest easy at night knowing the horror genre is now saved.

GRADE: C/C-

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