I like to talk about movies that people usually know but have somewhat forgotten about.
That being said, Midsommar is relatively recent and probably still discussed.
Oh well 🤷♂️
I’m not really a horror fan, so I haven’t seen Hereditary, Ari Aster’s other film. But Midsommar caught my attention because someone mentioned that it was a horror film that lacked any of the tropes found in such movies.
People aren’t as big of a fan of Midsommar as they are of Hereditary. Was Hereditary really that good?
Many have said that the subtext of this movie is dissolution of the relationship between the two leads. If that was the case, then I hardly noticed (or cared). For me, what was terrifying about the movie was how it kinda reminded me of Salo: Or the 120 Days of Sodom, albeit far more emotionally engaging. In fact, if Midsommer is a “horror” film, then Salo is as well.
But Aster uses the “horror” elements wisely. Much of the film is actually pleasant to look at: pleasant locations, pleasant faces. Naturally, this pleasantness is used to lower your guard.
Except for one dream sequence, all of the horror takes place during the day. The most noted example is the suicide scene with the two elderly people. If you watch a lot of movies, you’ve definitely seen gorier shit, but this one hits different. It’s a beautiful scene juxtaposed against two old people getting their faces smashed in. Additionally, for the two groups present for this ritual, one finds the scene beautiful while the other is utterly horrified.
And it happens relatively late in the film, long after you get adapted to the tone. Usually horror films do something like that early, just to tell the audience what it’s capable of.
Many have discussed why this movie is terrifying, and none of it works as an explanation for me. The most common is “it’s an American perspective on a foreign culture and how we find them terrifying “ blah blah blah. That never once occurred to me. What I found terrifying is the passiveness of the characters and the bullshit myths that the cult had to justify itself.
And the film does call bullshit on it (some guy argued that the film has a neutral take on the cult, which is partly why some find it scary. But that’s definitely not true).
Case in point is in the euthanasia scene, after the old man jumps off the cliff, breaks his leg, and lays there in pain. After the scene, the male lead tries to justify it by saying something like the “community might find our methods of elderly care barbaric”, but that old man met a truly barbaric end (his face later gets smashed in). I’d take a nursing home any day of the week.
The other example is at the end when the temple gets set on fire. Two members of the cult volunteer for the burning and are given a drug so that they won’t feel the pain of burning. However, one guy watches his friend, the last image he’ll ever see, scream in horror as he burns alive! All the drugs and nonsense clearly did him no good.
So to me, this film was kinda a commentary on the cult mindset and how people can be persuaded to do unusual things in the name of nonsense (and a lot of drugs). OR how people use these rituals to mask truly horrific things. That explains Florence Pugh’s smile at the end: she was an emotionally unbalanced person that’s suddenly found her place.
To me, the most terrifying thing was the brief moment when the male lead opens his eyes and sees a smiling face telling him that he is drugged, can’t move, can’t talk, and that’s that. Bye!
But what this film also does effectively is give you a solid sense of geography. You get used to the nice setting and that’s when bad things start happening. It plays out like a dream that suddenly turns into a helpless nightmare. Just as in a dream, the actors don’t know what’s going on but they play along nonetheless.
Ideology works the same way.