‘Trust me. Alright?’
Hereditary (review here) comfortably won the award for one of the most haunting films of 2018. It was a film watching experience that lingered far longer than watching, (with this writer more than happy to disclose that a night light was required for at least a week in the hope of getting any sleep…) This, writer-director Ari Aster’s follow up, is a very different movie yet serves as something of a companion piece.
The theme of loss is once again at the forefront, with Midsommar‘s 10 minute prologue slowly revealing a tragedy occurring for Dani (Florence Pugh) that will transform Dani, and her already fraying relationship with Christian (Jack Reynor). She ends up coming with him on a lads holiday with his friends Josh (William Jackson Harper) and Mark (Will Poulter) to visit the Swedish hometown of Pelle (Vilhelm) which is hosting a ‘once-every-90-years’ festival’. Shit, unsurprisingly, goes down.
The main difference, though, is how that shit going down is told. The tone is vastly different. The brutal and assaulting horror is retired for something more slow-burn but just as unsettling. With a running time of 147 minutes, Arster has time to play with – play being the operative word here. He’s toying with us for the entire film, the tension and anticipation doesn’t bludgeon the nerves of the viewer like Hereditary did. It slows slices and grates them, with the realisation of how badly you’ve been impacted only arriving long after the final credits rolled.
It makes for a shattering watch, that requires a strong beverage afterwards if you’re so inclined. The cast provide phenomenal performances, their growing unease and apprehension are fully contagious. Poulter continues to be a true underused British talent, able to defuse or worsen a situation with just an expression. Fans of The Good Place will fully appreciate Harper’s channelling of Chidi 2.0. Vilhelm is an intriguing presence throughout, his motivations inscrutable concealed by a quiet and sweet charisma. Reynor provides what may just be the best #SomeMenAreTrash performance that may result in some couples having internal reflections on their own romantic relationships. But it is Pugh who is the true star. Since her debut lead role in 2016’s Lady Macbeth (review here) she continues to dazzle with impeccable performances.
With this film Arster has undoubtedly created some of the most unsettling imagery we’ll see this summer. Set in broad daylight this is a psychological horror that shows that the greatest of evils are more human than supernatural.
Midsommar is in UK cinemas now.