Now, I have to come clean about one thing: I am not a horror fanatic. In fact, my knowledge of horror movies is about the same as my knowledge of rocket science – zilch. However, I am always open to watching new genres of cinema, so after so many people kept recommending it to me, I finally gave in and watched Midsommar.
This film tells the story of a group of college students – Dani, Christian, Josh and Mark – who come in contact with a cult-like group while on a trip to visit their friend Pelle’s family in sunny Sweden.
The movie is soaked in a creepy atmosphere since its very beginning when we see our protagonist Dani (Florence Pugh), calling her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), after discovering that her sister killed her parents and committed suicide. He is not of much – or any – help, as we soon also learn that he is actually planning on breaking up with her but keeps putting it off.
Then, Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) invites his friends to visit Sweden for a fun family reunion. Christian invites Dani out of guilt, who makes the incredibly dumb decision to accept and go. However, once the group arrives in the Northern country, the expected summertime idyll turns into a gruesome festival of horror, as they take part in the sadistic ‘Midsommar’ ritual.
Can Aster be considered the New ‘Horror Master’?
Countless critics have praised this movie, admiring the director’s work and his use of light and colors, his witty touch of foreshadowing and symbolism, and the choices for the soundtrack, which are all elements that contribute to creating the desired unsettling feeling in us viewers that makes this movie stand out.
All of this is undoubtedly true, although not many critics seem to mention the movie’s actual biggest flaw: the characters.
The five main protagonists are some of the dumbest and most unlikable movie characters that have graced our theaters in a long time, each one more annoying than the other, which makes the movie almost unbearable to finish.
Many have pointed out that this may have been Aster’s deliberate choice. He uses the old trick from the 90s horror movies of making the characters so irritating, to the point where the viewers wouldn’t feel bad if they got killed off. However, this trope became very old very soon, as everyone in the audience got fed up with its blatant manipulation. Still, Ari Aster doesn’t seem to have got the message yet.
Josh and Mark are side-characters who nobody really cares about, and no one would have been upset about them dying anyway, so he really had no reason to make them so unbearable, but he did so regardless.
What’s the Real Problem? Dani and Christian
As Dani is the poor orphan we are supposed to feel bad for and empathize with as she makes one foolish decision after the other throughout the entire movie, she may seem like the victim. However, that’s not what comes off if you watch and actually pay attention.
If you look closer, you’ll notice that the real victim of the story is Christian. Yes, he may have been a selfish coward for not breaking up with Dani even if he wanted to. Yet, he sat there and offered her a shoulder to cry on as she was basically emotionally manipulating him and using him as her punching bag for their entire relationship.
Then, when he cheats on her in the end, the movie wants us to feel sorry for her. Regardless of the fact that Christian is being lured into doing all those things while on drugs and probably has lost all control over his conscious will. But he is still the one who eventually pays the highest price – death –, while Dani is happy and content with his misery.
The Good and the Bad
Midsommar fails to do one of the most important things film-makers have to do nowadays, which is make us actually care about the characters. Without that, the movie is just a long, pointless supercut filled with gruesome jump-scares that honestly didn’t even make me flinch.
Overall, Midsommar with its brilliant directing and fresh acting is just like a pretty empty box. In essence, it is entertaining but not much more than that. It does not provide any social commentary, which is not bad per se, but if that’s what you are looking for in a movie, this is not the one for you.
Midsommar may be captivating and fascinating, but it is somewhat empty in its enticement. It seems to me more like a 3-hour long gruesome and weird commercial for Swedish tourism than a decent horror movie. If you want to see Sweden, just go to Ikea: it’s more fun and actually worth your money.
Cover image: A24 Films