Ari Aster made tongue clicking a sound to shiver at in ‘Hereditary’ and now, a year on, he’s back with ‘hoohah’ sounds and a folk horror which trickles with apprehension throughout. It’s an astonishingly well-crafted film but not one the Swedish tourist board will be advertising I’m sure.
After a family tragedy, Dani (Florence Pugh) tags along with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his mates to a festival in Sweden. Every year they celebrate, but every 90 years the white-clad commune take part in their ancestral rites for 9 long days and all manner of oddities begin bearing down on Dani and co.
Flower power and the hippy culture has never looked so shocking, forget the free love message and buckle in for a truly barmy yet glorious horror. The white linen clothes, the old school wooden buildings and lush green pastures north of Stockholm present this film like some fresh haven of hell. ‘Midsommar’ enraptured me so much so that I never wanted it to end, there’s this pleasing detail in the shots and a halo of sunshine cast over the movie which bathes you in an otherworldly glow, albeit one that slowly racks up in gore and unease but you cannot look away.
Aster just fringed the surfaces of cult-like madness in the final stages of the brilliantly chilling ‘Hereditary’, but this time he goes all out, in building a world of dread which shouldn’t but does draw you in. The antics of the Swedish elders, the rules and the celebrations are bonkers but stuffed with an unsettling nastiness. Aster directs in a way with devilish delight that won’t be for everyones tastes but he concocts one of the strangest and sinister horrors and weirdly it’s a fun thing to watch.
It’s entrenched in the soundscape of the movie that the real disturbing factor lies. The sound design for this horror is pure class. The terror elevates like a prickling feel of discomfort on the back of your neck as you watch. Heavy breathing, wails, laughter and an orgy of panting are just some of the aural elements which fill the story with an unrelenting atmosphere of dread.
Florence Pugh is sheer brilliance in the film, she brings a lot to the table by reigning in with more reserved, quiet emotion; this sense of her troubled life and shaky romantic connection spilling over from time to time and when she does let rip or when matters do become alarming, you’re pelted over the head with her stunningly engrossing performance. Reynor is class at making you feel hypnotised, sucked into a landscape of crazy and his descent into exhaustion and induced terror are well played; as is the necessary lighter tone put into effect by the great Will Poulter.
‘Midsommar’ possesses this hazy, rippled feel and you will feel like you’re having a bad trip in the best possible way whilst watching the horror and comedy unfold. This is a distressing film swaddled in a warm glow which wraps around you like a vine and won’t let go.