Midsommar

Midsommar ★★★½

70

If anything, Midsommar utilizes its cultish 70s euro-horror trappings as set-dressing and nothing more, which makes it all the more liberating when it succeeds and limiting when it fails. At its best, Ari Aster's sophomore feature finds hilarity in the physicality of grief - never has the 'nice guy' type (Christian) been so terrible, and the 'asshole' type (Mark) so relatable. Tumbling within impeccable, sun-baked production design and a steadily-increasing psychological viciousness is the sad truth that some people really don't change, or even care to. Some of this is acutely mined, and some of it isn't, with Aster once again placing his bets in one place, souring the rest of the field to rot. While the initial grieving plot thread is lacking exploration, the humor in violence, as well as the terror of caring about others before yourself, proves that Aster is a capable craftsman and an auteur with many dastardly thoughts on his mind. What he lacks is a provocative edge. Beyond a scene of immense gore that ranks as a premier shock sequence of the decade (and featuring some of the best practical effects work of all-time), much of this is predictable in spite of its idiosyncratic approach and never as visceral as it could be, choosing to lighten up on both the atmosphere and overt splatter moments. Still, if Midsommar does anything right, it's proving that none of those issues matter much when Florence Pugh is showcasing a powerhouse performance, or when it shuts up and lingers on the pageantry.

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