Midsommar ★★½

A film that almost makes me miss the days when studio execs would compromise a director's vision by cutting extraneous sections from an over-running picture, I reckon a decent 90-minute black comedy-horror could be carved out of Ari Aster's Midsommar, but at two and a half hours it's a punishingly slow, arse-numbing experience.

It's about five American students who travel to a secret commune in Sweden to witness a nine-day midsummer festival during which hallucinogenic tea is sipped and the sun never goes down. Before long (just kidding - it takes ages), it becomes obvious that the druids are working to split the group up, that the only woman in the group, Dani, will be crowned May Queen, and that there are going to be human sacrifices. Eventually it all ends in a not dissimilar way to Aster's debut, Hereditary, with a strange and compelling cult ritual.

Sadly, this is no Hereditary, though it has its moments. There's a really powerful pre-title sequence, and the occasional horror moments, when they come, are well directed. But in contrast to the convincingly toxic family dynamics of the previous movie, here the four American bros are unlikable, under-written pawns. Even Dani, the only one of the group with any backstory, doesn't act believably; there's one (excellent) scene which ought to play right into her trauma relating to a recent murder-suicide at home, but it results in little more than a nightmare that evening, after which she starts joining in the fun with all the other women at the festival.

That festival, incidentally, is believably designed (ie it looks cheap and homemade) and the numerous sunny exteriors are beautifully shot. But it all plays out at such an overextended, slow pace that it's hardly ever either tense or exciting, and ultimately it doesn't feel worthy of the time you need to invest in it.

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