D: Ari Aster
A24/Square Peg/B-Reel (Lars Knudsen & Patrik Andersson)
W: Ari Aster
DP: Pawel Pogorzelski
Ed: Lucian Johnston
Mus: The Haxan Cloak
Florence Pugh (Dani Ardor), Jack Reynor (Christian Hughes), William Jackson Harper (Josh), Will Poulter (Mark), Vilhelm Blomgren (Pelle), Anna Åström (Karin)
Writer-director Ari Aster follows up on his 2018 breakthrough, Hereditary, with this unsettling cult horror which may owe a little debt of inspiration to the 1970's classic The Wicker Man (not the terrible 2006 remake).
Florence Pugh stars as Dani, a troubled young woman who, following a tragic personal event, accepts an invitation to join her boyfriend and his pals on a holiday in Sweden, spent in the perpetual daylight of a cult hippie community during their Midsommar festival.
It's a slow-burning narrative, focusing on characters, settings and tension as the community's traditions become increasingly bizarre, leading to a rather profound ending which will prompt discourse and polarising opinions from audiences.
Not unlike Hereditary, it's a horror which relies on inference and insinuation rather than jump scares and gore, and though Midsommar does feature some violent, bloody imagery, it's more to punctuate the progressively unsettling narrative than to provoke scared reactions from the audience. There's also a lot which happens off-screen, following the golden rule of horror that the implication and innuendo is more than enough to give you chills.
As well as having a religious theme throughout, the film also doubles up as a metaphor for toxic relationships, especially since we see most of the events from Dani's perspective, following a tragic event involving her family and being engaged in a relationship with her boyfriend, Christian, which neither of them are really happy with. Even Christian's relationship with his friends is a facade, nowhere near as strong as suggested in the opening act, and the somewhat cryptic ending is perhaps her character's catharsis of finally finding a place to belong, despite knowing its unsavoury intentions.
Ari Aster has a great visual style for the genre, creating an unsettling atmosphere from the offset with both the camerawork and music. Florence Pugh delivers a superb performance, managing to evoke sympathy from her opening scene, and the other cast members play their parts well, Will Poulter providing some welcome comic relief in fits and starts.
Hereditary was my favourite horror movie of 2018 and it's highly likely that Midsommar will be my favourite of 2019. A fine piece of work which might not cater to all tastes, and perhaps that's why I like it most of all.