FlixChatter Review – MIDSOMMAR (2019)

Written & Directed by: Ari Aster

When I heard Ari Aster had a new horror movie coming out, I was excited, especially since he described it as a companion piece to last year’s Hereditary. While I didn’t want to go in comparing it too much to last year’s hit, I still had high expectations.

Following a heartbreaking family tragedy, Dani (Florence Pugh) tags along with her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), and his friends Josh (William Jackson Harper), Mark (Will Poulter), and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) to an idyllic commune in a remote part of Sweden to experience their mysterious summer solstice festival. The longer they stay, however, it becomes more evident that there is a more sinister meaning behind the celebration.

Florence Pugh

This movie is nearly TWO AND A HALF HOURS LONG and my goodness, it does not need to be. A slower pace can work in creating an unsettling, suspenseful tone (it was super effective in Hereditary), but it this movie goes beyond that, and it’s not like the plot is complex or dense enough to warrant that long of a run time. The movie has serious Wicker Man vibes-the 1973 one, not the baffling 2006 remake (although weirdly enough, this movie also has a man in a bear suit). That’s partially good-both films have these hauntingly beautiful soundtracks and a unique aesthetic for a horror movie-but Midsommar doesn’t do anything particularly new or creative with the “unsuspecting outsiders are lured to a strange, rustic community for nefarious purposes” plot, despite having a ridiculous amount of time to do so.

Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper & Will Poulter

Fortunately, this film gives us a lot to look at over its long run time; it is absolutely gorgeous. Midsommar is full of creative editing and camera work and beautiful set and costume design. Even the gory parts are fascinating. The cast is solid too; lead Florence Pugh is easily the standout, although Will Poulter gives an enjoyable performance as well, despite his character being a one-note frat bro-type.

While I was mostly underwhelmed with this movie, I would still watch it again, just to see if I missed any interesting details or clues in the lush visuals. If you were curious about Ari Aster’s style after hearing about Hereditary’s success but aren’t a huge horror fan, Midsommar might be worth checking out- as long as you have a decent amount of time to kill.

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Have you seen Dead Don’t Die? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review – Hereditary (2018)

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Directed By: Ari Aster
Written By: Ari Aster
Runtime: 127 minutes

Hereditary begins with Annie Graham (Toni Collette), her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), and her children Peter (Alex Wolf) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro) coping with the recent death of Annie’s mother. Strange and terrifying events quickly begin to occur following the family matriarch’s passing, hinting at a dark family secret that might not have died with her.

This is one of the most suspenseful and unsettling horror movies I’ve seen in a while, and that tone is maintained the whole way through. The pacing is excellent; it works so well in building the tension. The beginning takes plenty of time establishing the characters’ backgrounds, but it doesn’t feel like it drags, because the exposition all feels very natural, thanks to a combination of strong writing and and stellar acting, especially from Toni Collette. The real inciting incident of the film (which is horrifying) takes so long to build up and is so drawn out, but it’s so effective.

Visually, this film is very creative, and not necessarily due to over-the-top special effects. The majority of the effects are practical rather than CGI, and for the most part, they’re pretty understated. This, combined with a good use of lighting and clever camera work, makes for a terrifying viewing experience.

I only have a couple complaints about this movie. Firstly, there isn’t much to Gabriel Byrne‘s character. I’ve enjoyed him in other movies, and I know he can act well; he just isn’t given much to work with here. He doesn’t really interact much with the rest of the family, which makes his chemistry with them so awkward that I initially thought he was the stepfather and not the actual father. It’s not that he seems emotionally distant, which I could almost understand, because it would make the tone feel even more uncomfortable. He just feels unnecessary. I know Annie and the kids are the real focus of the movie, but his character could have been removed and the film wouldn’t have lost anything vital.

Secondly, the ending kind of gives me tonal whiplash. It’s not a bad ending- it’s foreshadowed well, and it has a Rosemary’s Baby vibe that I appreciate- but it also feels more bizarre than the rest of the movie does; still twisted, but in a different, kind of jarring way. It’s a weird note to go out on.

Overall though, this is a fantastic horror movie. It’s well-written, the acting is mostly excellent, the visuals are skillfully done, and it will stick with you long after you leave the theater. If you enjoy scary movies, definitely check out this one.

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Have you seen ‘Hereditary’? Well, what did you think?