Midsommar Review: An Ethereal, Psychedelic Nightmare

Projected Film: Midsommar Review: An Ethereal, Psychedelic Nightmare

Runtime: 147mins | Director: Ari Aster |  Rating: 5 Stars

Jump-scares, characters wandering about at night (often in atmospheric lightning) and bizarre, supernatural creatures. These are, more or less, the tropes we have come to associate with the horror genre. Of course, there is nothing wrong with these formulaic things – when done well – but they are becoming a bit unoriginal and obvious. After all, the whole point of a horror film is to scare you, and being able to guess what is going to happen as soon as the music quietens or someone looks in a mirror defeats that. However, we seem to be entering a horror renaissance where talented directors such as Jordan Peele and Ari Aster are being bolder in their nightmarish creations and are challenging the status quo.

Projected Film: Midsommar Review: An Ethereal, Psychedelic Nightmare

Following the tragic death of her family, Dani (Florence Pugh) joins her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), and his friends on a trip to Sweden in the hope it will strengthen their relationship. At first, the quaint Swedish commune seems tranquil and idyllic – the perfect place to distract Dani from recent events. The longer the group are there, however, the quicker they begin to realise something isn’t right…

Projected Film: Midsommar Review: An Ethereal, Psychedelic Nightmare

Other than being a horror nerd, the thing which drew me to Midsommar is that it’s set solely during the day – an interesting premise and something very unconventional. After all, the day time is often the only respite an audience receives when watching a horror, so how could Aster make this usually ‘safe’ period of the day frightening? 

The answer? He doesn’t. At least not stereotypically. There are no jump scares and no moments set to make you leap off your seat. Instead, Aster does his best to fill you with dread, grief and leave you completely unnerved and disoriented from the outset. In fact, the opening ten minutes of the film are some of the most harrowing I have ever seen on screen. Rather than rushing this though, Aster masterfully builds the tension, suspense and unease until the film comes to a deeply cathartic, nightmarish crescendo. 

Projected Film: Midsommar Review: An Ethereal, Psychedelic Nightmare

In contrast to the story itself though, the cinematography is beautiful – the best of the year so far. A challenge Aster and cinematographer, Pawel Pogorzelski, faced was the constant threat of overexposure due to the unrelenting Swedish sun. Treading the line carefully though, the two manage to create an ethereal, technicolour masterpiece. Whether you’re looking at shots of the beautiful Swedish landscape, close-ups of the actors’ faces, or wide shots of the commune dining on crisscrossed tables, it’s a visual delight from start to finish that anyone can appreciate. 

Projected Film: Midsommar Review: An Ethereal, Psychedelic Nightmare

Whilst it’s undeniable the acting is of a very high-calibre too – especially by Florence Pugh who conveys her character’s grief with apparent ease – the soundtrack stands out the most. Bobby Krlic’s diverse score inspires all-encompassing dread with harrowing violins tensely screeching over heavy drum beats, and moments later, a sense of optimism, mystery and wonder. This is especially true when the group first enter the seemingly picturesque commune and meet the ‘family’ who are all robed in white. 

Projected Film: Midsommar Review: An Ethereal, Psychedelic Nightmare

Midsommar, in my opinion, is the best film of 2019 so far. Aster establishes himself as a true horror auteur whilst creating a deeply unnerving, macabre fairy tale which will stick in your mind days after viewing it. Aided by strong performances, especially by Florence Pugh who gives her best to date, beautiful cinematography and a deeply emotive soundtrack, this isn’t a film to be missed. Unless, of course, you’re due to go to Sweden any time soon… in that case, maybe wait until you’re back…

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