Aris Aster, writer and director of last year’s critical darling, the art house horror film, Hereditary, has returned with his much anticipated follow up, Midsommar. I was less enthused than most with Aster’s previous effort although I felt it had some definite elements that made it worthy of a marginal recommendation even if the film’s extremely busy ending was at odds with the glacial pacing of the film’s earlier section.
I wish I could find something, or rather, much of anything, about Aster’s sophomore effort that would make it worthy of recommendation but, sadly, this just isn’t the case. Admittedly, there are a few jarring scenes in the film that are certain to elicit visceral reactions from the audience, one member of the audience I shared the experience with audibly gasped, but a few shocks thrown in for good measure like so many bones tossed aside to a dog do not a good film make. This is the type of film that gives the genre of art house style horror a bad name. There really isn’t a cliché or well-worn trope found in these types of films that doesn’t rear its head at some point during the unforgivable 145 minute run time of this baby. If there were a payoff of some sort one might be more willing to overlook Aster’s self-important excesses. Unfortunately, there isn’t and the takeaway is slim to none.
Things do start out promisingly with a well-staged prologue involving the film’s main character, Dani (effectively embodied by Florence Pugh) and an unspeakable tragedy that I really won’t go into in the interest of keeping things spoiler free. It doesn’t help that Dani’s grad student boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), isn’t really happy in the relationship but keeps Dani hanging on simply because he doesn’t want to disappoint her in a time of emotional crisis.
Christian sees a perfect way to put some distance between himself and Dani when his fellow anthropology student friends invite him to journey to a remote Swedish village for the summer. Christian, however, winds up taking pity on Dani and inviting her to come along on the trip much to the consternation of his friends. Once everyone arrives it becomes quite evident that things are far from what the idyllic surface of things might suggest and this gives the filmmaker multiple excuses to flash copious amounts of graphic nudity and violence onscreen. I’ll leave it that.
Aster must be given credit for his talent as a director and for staging things effectively. Unfortunately, his story is so thin and underdeveloped that all the craftsmanship in the world can’t save the film from caving under its own weight. Add to the fact that it takes nearly two and a half hours for Aster to arrive at his destination and you’ve got the perfect example of testing the limits of the audience’s patience. Mine certainly were tested more times than I care to count.
Midsommar is playing everywhere.
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