What Did We Just Watch? Reflecting On The ‘Midsommar’ Horror FilmJuly 10, 2019
We’re not huge horror movie junkies, but when we saw “Hereditary” writer Ari Aster was releasing a film titled “Midsommar,” we felt it was our duty to report back. How in the world was our beloved Midsummer turned into a horror film? We tasked a brave writer with the assignment, and away she went.
This was her experience. (Editor’s note: Mild discussion of the plot and idea behind the film is discussed. No huge spoilers ahead.)
Two days after “Midsommar” was released, I purchased the tickets. Snagged a medium popcorn (extra butter, of course), Milk Duds and a Cherry Coke and headed down the neon-sprinkled theater floors that resembled old skating rink carpeting. Theater nine.
Going into it, I was wary. I had heard that the movie went through a lot of back and forth to secure its “gentle” R rating; it was almost rated NC-17, a level up from R indicating that no one under the age of 17 can view the movie, even with an adult present. An NC-17 rating typically is a huge blow to box office performance, so the “R” was a big deal for the “Midsommar” team.
To me, it meant I better prepare for something heavy.
Adding on to the rating drama, my younger sister, an actress in Los Angeles, saw the film and said, “I actually still feel nauseous, and it’s the morning after. I woke up at 3 a.m. and had to be over the toilet because I thought I was going to throw up.”
And I paid $9.25 for this? Voluntarily? (Well, technically, I volunteered for this because none of my colleagues accepted the assignment.)
To say I was thoroughly spooked going into it would be an understatement.
It was a small, local theater that doesn’t play previews ahead of its films (yes, apparently those still exist), so the movie had already begun as my group walked in for the 7 p.m. showing. Another perk of a small-town theater? We saw the movie just two days after it was released, yet there were maybe five viewers along for the journey with us.
The Freaky Flick
The movie centers on a dysfunctional couple who travels with a group of graduate school friends to a small village in Hälsingland, Sweden for a Midsummer festival held every 90 years by a cult-like community named Hårga. The girlfriend (Dani) is played by Florence Pugh, who does a fantastic job portraying an emotionally-unstable character struggling with some heavy family trauma.
While in Hälsingland, what begins as a life-changing experience abroad turns sinister pretty quickly, with friends disappearing, Hårga death rituals and bodily-fluid love potions.
Yes, bodily fluids. I will not say which fluid exactly, but it is one you typically wouldn’t think of, and I did not eat most of my popcorn, which is extremely unlike me.
While the movie was intense, sometimes subtly gruesome and oftentimes in-your-face gruesome, it also was beautiful at the same time. Aster has an eye for stunning composition, and I found myself appreciating the juxtaposition of horror with the green, brightly-lit outdoor setting, white-cloaked festival goers donned with flower crowns and blue eyes and dancing. The movie is beautifully shot.
But let’s talk about Midsummer.
Aster did warp the Maypole-dancing, flower-crown-wearing, summer-solstice-celebrating holiday into a glorified ritual killing. Not cool, Ari Aster, not cool. And while some outlets have critiqued him for the way he seemingly shallowly depicted the Swedish celebration, we disagree.
The heart and soul of the movie, while it is themed around the Midsummer celebration, is more of a commentary on relationships through folklore. We took solace in the fact that some of the scenes were so absurd they were laughable. We couldn’t relate them to our dear Sweden because what we were watching was actually insane. People in the theater laughed.
It boggles my mind to think there are individuals out there who have the sadistic creative mind to bring a story like “Midsommar” to life. Aster did not toe the line of real and folk, he leapt right past it.
You will probably be shocked. You may be horrified. You will be graced with beauty. And blood.
Is it worth seeing? If you’re the type of person who can handle depravity and absurdity, then yes, there is value in seeing the movie, thanks to both the acting and cinematography. But that’s probably a slim population; most folks will likely find the shock value too much for what it’s worth.