Whilst not the greatest horror fan in the world, I’ve noticed a trend among modern horror, the trend being that they’re getting gradually worse. Thanks to a small handful of independent pioneers who believe that the scariest of all notions is that which we do not see, or, worse still, a poorly disguised metaphor, the likes of Ari Aster and David Robert Mitchell have coasted along rather easily whilst they rely on this new, uninteresting form of horror. Aster’s second outing as a director brings us Midsommar, a bloated take on cultist traditions, that sees a plucky group of friends in over their heads as they head to the idyllic landscape of Sweden.
Led by Florence Pugh’s strong leading performance as Dani Ardor, the greatest compliment I can pay the movie is of its nice casting. The performances are, unfortunately, a different story. Aside from Pugh, nobody really impressed me with their respective roles, cannon fodder for a much bigger picture that never quite comes together in the end. A film that relies on varyingly bad trips to convey any sense of real horror through its cast of gawping young adults. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that there’s nothing really all that scary about Midsommar. No moment really strikes me as terrifying or blood-curdling, nor is there a moment where I was truly gripped by tension and heightened senses of fear.
That, in effect, makes it nigh on impossible to really connect or engage with the movie. A horror film without anything all that horrifying. Granted, there are moments within that express some truly great terrors, but they’re closed off towards the end of the film and regard themselves with such pompous merit that they lose all ability to add anything to a plot that has already whisked itself away on a wave of expressionless cultist knockbacks. I’d go as far as to argue that Midsommar doesn’t really want or need to convey anything, and as far as my personal analysis of the film goes, I can’t really take anything at all away from the experience.
Still, it’s far from horrible. A step-down from Aster’s debut, but a more visually rewarding experience. It’s clear that he’s had time to hone his craft a little more, the jitters and mistakes that made Hereditary feel more natural and independent are scrubbed away with some simplicity that unfortunately falls to both ends of the sword. Visually impressive though the scenes are, they’re undermined by the fact that they don’t really convey anything interesting. This is, in my opinion, absolutely due to the script, one that feels cheap and peppered with faux drama between a group of characters who have no real drive or need to be at each other’s throats. Perhaps if they were thrust further into an unnatural isolation, then this could’ve played out well, but by the looks of it, the issues begin way before the fantasy begins to crack.
A lot is left to be desired from this, a film that feels like an extended edition of an episode of American Horror Story. For all his visual prowess and keen eye for lingering shots and uncomfortable moments, nothing of any real substance or interest comes from Midsommar. We’re left with a plot that feels rather similar to that of Hereditary, a group of family or friends picked off by something either supernatural or superficial in nature. I don’t have all that much hope for Aster giving us something more engaging or thoughtful, and by the looks of it, he’s merely a one-trick pony. A flimsy narrative is a blow that knocks the wind out of Midsommar’s sails, and it soon spirals into a completely mediocre farce.