Midsommar

Critics Consensus

Ambitious, impressively crafted, and above all unsettling, Midsommar further proves writer-director Ari Aster is a horror auteur to be reckoned with.

83%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 342

63%

Audience Score

Verified Ratings: 5,218
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Movie Info

Dani and Christian are a young American couple with a relationship on the brink of falling apart. But after a family tragedy keeps them together, a grieving Dani invites herself to join Christian and his friends on a trip to a once-in-a-lifetime midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village. What begins as a carefree summer holiday in a land of eternal sunlight takes a sinister turn when the insular villagers invite their guests to partake in festivities that render the pastoral paradise increasingly unnerving and viscerally disturbing. From the visionary mind of Ari Aster comes a dread-soaked cinematic fairytale where a world of darkness unfolds in broad daylight.

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Critic Reviews for Midsommar

All Critics (342) | Top Critics (43) | Fresh (283) | Rotten (59)

  • I was never, even for one second, feeling the length... I found it so unsettling and sinister. At moments it was a little uneven, but it's so watchable and gets under your skin in a really creepy way.

    Oct 1, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Even more than Hereditary, Midsommar lives on the edge where horror meets absurdity, prompting the kind of laughter that comes from not knowing how else to respond.

    Aug 9, 2019 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Midsommar mostly takes place in Sweden, but at its core is a particularly American sense of rootlessness.

    Jul 26, 2019 | Full Review…
  • "Midsommar" isn't just a great horror movie... It is also one of the best movies ever made about living with mental illness.

    Jul 15, 2019 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Grim, grisly and downright sickening, Midsommar is a feel-bad horror film about suicide, mercy killings, insanity, graphic nudity, religious hysteria, and the kind of grotesque imagery that exists for no other reason than shock value.

    Jul 9, 2019 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

    Rex Reed

    Observer
    Top Critic
  • Don't let the studio-manufactured hype fool you; this is a midsummer's matinee bore.

    Jul 9, 2019 | Rating: 0/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Midsommar

  • 4d ago
    Midsommar might genuinely be my big disappointment for 2019. I'm not saying it's bad. But coming into this on the back of not only the crazy good Hereditary from last year, but also the gushing praise from the online horror community, I guess my expectations were a little high. It doesn't make me feel good to say it, but honestly I'm glad I didn't see this in the cinema. Firstly because I think I might've been a little mad if I had forked out $25 to see this, based on the experience I ended up happening, but also secondly, because I don't much feel like going blind in the theatre from the sheer white exposure that takes up 97% of Midsommar's runtime.
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • Aug 03, 2019
    Yes there is some great stuff here (i.e. the way daylight becomes a kind of darkness, the pathetic and passive aggressive way the characters turn on each other, the deliberate choice to avoid the supernatural) but its also too long and the "break-up as horror" narrative feels a little flimsy.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 18, 2019
    Hot off the heels of his smash horror hit HEREDITARY, which was still in theaters this time last year, writer/director Ari Aster has already brought a second offering to the genre's unholy altar. MIDSOMMAR (and I promise that's the first and last time I resort to the pretentious pronunciation of its title) is a striking indication that HEREDITARY was far from a fluke and that Aster is a feature-length bard capable of instilling both admiration and trepidation. MIDSOMMAR begins with one of the bleakest preludes I've encountered in quite some time. It's emotionally stark and visually dark and introduces us to our protagonist, Dani, in yet another incredible performance from my ongoing onscreen obsession, Florence Pugh. Her abilities are on full display in an early scene when she calls her boyfriend, Christian (played here by Jack Reynor), to convince him to stop by in a time of need. She tries to keep it together, but we can see the anxiety written all over her face and spilling out of her eyes. It's a remarkable moment of separate presentations of self and an incisive glimpse at the rocky relationship at the center of this story. She's looking for emotional support. He's planning a trip to Sweden behind her back while debating whether or not to cut her loose altogether. Through twisted circumstance, a terrible tragedy keeps them together, depicted in a blood-chilling sequence that leads right into the film's opening credits. It's definitely what I'd consider to be a directorial flex, but it's all in the service of the characters and the mood. And damn, is it cold. This stands in stark contrast (literally) to where the story leads and ultimately ends. Still reeling from a personal loss, Dani pulls herself from a deep depression to accompany the boys on their summer trip: attending the midsummer celebration at H?rga, a friend's ancestral commune. Needless to say, she checks plenty of emotional baggage for the flight. Soon enough, the plot relocates to this village, just in time for the 9-day festivities to begin. It's a massive set piece built from the ground up for the film, a meticulous effort spearheaded by production designer Henrik Svensson. Along with Aster, they mined actual midsummer traditions, Swedish folklore, Norse mythology and more to fill H?rga with mysterious structures, prophetic murals and cryptic runes. The film's mise en scène is actually communicating to us through paintings and a repurposed alphabet. Sure, some of this won't register for those of us that are a bit rusty in our younger Futhark, but the explicit artwork requires little to no translation. Slowly but surely, MIDSOMMAR casts its spell on the characters and audience alike. It manages to alter senses (i), disrupt equilibrium (ii) and, ultimately, challenge notions (iii). It does so through a parade of foreign customs, its uncanny use of sunlight and enough psychedelics to satiate Jim Morrison. i. It's not enough that the four American grad students find themselves on foreign soil. They are immediately treated like VIPs at Burning Man and the hallucinogens flow freely. The trip of their lives becomes, well, the trip of their lives. We gain access to their altered state through prolonged shots and pulsating visual effects. Cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski, who has been shooting Aster's films since their time at AFI together, captures the proceedings, in turn, with curious compositions and a bleached, unblinking bluntness. ii. Taking place during the summer solstice in H?lsingland, the sun hangs high in the sky long into the night. One of MIDSOMMAR's widely touted characteristics was its bright and pastoral palette, which was on full display in the trailers. This runs counterintuitive to what we associate with horror. After all, things tend to go bump in the night, not in broad daylight. As an upcoming film will no doubt reminds us: scary stories are best told in the dark. So, why the decision to set this film in a place where the moon don't shine? Well, for one thing, it's remarkably unsettling for that very reason. If we expect things to come at night, then things will come unexpectedly. The perpetual light of day is this film's secret weapon. It lulls us into a false sense of security before revealing a hard fact of life: awful things happen completely independent of the sun's position in the sky. Ironically, in the case of the H?rga, the sun's prime placement is precisely why they commence in this carousel of carousal and ceremony. Moreover, once the madness inevitably goes down in the daylight, we can see it all the more clearly, which—in a meta sense—is precisely what many people sign up for when they watch a movie like this. iii. Consider how our main characters are such a curious bunch, essentially proxies for the viewer. Christian and his classmate, Josh (William Jackson Harper), are both working on their PhDs in anthropology. They even begin competing over this pursuit of knowledge as each works on the topic of his thesis. Anyone who has encountered foreign cultures or customs, whether through festivals, travels, religions, cults, you name it, will undoubtedly recognize the fine line between having your curiosity piqued and "Okay, I've seen enough, I'm getting the hell out of here!" What can I say, it's fun to see the limits of these characters. Yes, I said fun. One of the more remarkable and surprising aspects of MIDSOMMAR is just how funny it is, something that would've seemed an impossibility after that austere opening. Most of this humor comes from Christian and his boys as they react to and provide commentary on whatever is happening around them, especially coming from Mark (played by the ever reliable Will Poulter). It's through this assorted arsenal that MIDSOMMAR manages to be a subversion of the horror genre. Speaking of, the film's very status on that front seems to be a popular point of debate among cinephiles since its release. Personally, I think it's all a waste of breath. Horror is the most wide and wild of all the film genres, with more sub-categories than you can shake a crucifix at. This film very clearly slides onto the folk horror shelf along recent films like APOSTLE, THE LOVE WITCH and KILL LIST. A shelf that holds what is clearly one of the film's biggest influences, THE WICKER MAN. The cinematic touchstones don't end there, over the course of the film my mind raced to Eli Roth's Travel Trilogy, Tobe Hooper's TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, and two of British provocateur Ken Russell's insane works: THE DEVILS and ALTERED STATES. All of which demonstrate just how rich and varied horror films can be. Why supposed fans want to start acting like gatekeepers is beyond me. To be fair, some of this conversation stems from the filmmaker himself. Ari Aster has said he considers MIDSOMMAR to be "a breakup movie dressed in the clothes of a folk horror film." Well, those need not be mutually exclusive and when it wears said clothes… it wears them very well. I'd be remiss if I didn't also highlight the film's extraordinary score. For this, the team enlisted Bobby Krlic, better known as The Haxan Cloak, a very fitting name to associate with a project exploring the heights and depths of a pagan cult. Here he primarily relies on the steadiness of strings and the limits of the human voice for tracks that conjure utter despair and beyond. True, at its narrative core, this is a breakup movie, one like we have never had before. Aster said he wrote the film as he was going through a painful parting of his own and that sentiment reverberates throughout. Pugh and Reynor fulfill their roles uncomfortably well as that knife through the heart is twisted millimeter by millimeter. Beyond this doomed romance, Dani starts the film in the darkest place imaginable. Her anguish is palpable. Gradually, she's brought into a different light and it's a terrifying ordeal for her. Perhaps for us as well. But it's what she ultimately discovers there that makes this transplantation feel something akin to fate. Which leaves me with a couple questions: 1) What effect will MIDSOMMAR have on Sweden's tourism industry? and 2) What did Ari Aster's ex think of the film?
    J.S. L Super Reviewer
  • Jul 08, 2019
    I was not a fan of Hereditary. It had some admirable craft and a potent sense of dread, but it felt like it was being made up as it went and little came to much without exposition that was literally highlighted. I worried the same was about to transpire with writer/director Ari Aster's newest indie horror darling with the critics, Midsommar. It has many of the same faults I found with the earlier Hereditary yet I walked away mostly pleased from his campy, weird, and disturbing follow-up. I'm still processing why I hold one over the other, so come along with me, dear reader, as I work through this conundrum. Dani (Florence Pugh) and her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) are hanging on in a relationship past its prime. Each is wondering whether to end it, and then tragedy strikes and Dani's family is killed in one large suicide. She's lost to her grief and Christian feels compelled to comfort her and guilty to leave. He invites her to a retreat he had been intending with his friends (Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper) to the idyllic home of a Swedish-born pal, Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren). The group travels to the northern reaches of Sweden to attend the pagan mid-summer festival, an event that happens once every ninety years, but things are not what they appear and soon it may be too late to leave. From a technical perspective, Aster has some serious skills even if they don't fully amount to much. His decision to film the majority of the film in bright sunlight provides a disarming contrast to most horror films that use darkness and our primal fear of it as the backdrop for their scary shenanigans. It produces a different landscape for the movie and the illusion of tranquility that will be shaken. The photography by Pawel Pogorzelski is often gorgeous in its framing and deliberate shot compositions. Aster's command of technical craft and his ability with actors gives him such a great starting point with his projects. I just wish they amounted to more than the sum of their parts, and I'm not sure Midsommar is different. It's hard not to notice that Midsommar is decidedly less ambitious and more streamlined than Hereditary, and I think this has positives and negatives. First, it makes the film more condensed and accessible. It's also a smart move to personalize the story through the experiences of Dani and her recovery from trauma. The plot presented is pretty predictable; you've seen enough other cult movies to know what should be ominous and what decisions will be regretted. I strongly suspect that Aster recognizes that his audience knows these things and that's why the narrative isn't built around what will happen next but more so how will Dani respond to what will happen next. There's a deadly ritual at about the hour mark that just about everyone and their invalid grandmother will be able to see coming, though that doesn't take away from the sick brutality of the moment and some stomach-churning prosthetics. However, even though I knew it was coming, the dread was more palpable for me because I knew it would trigger Dani, so I was lying in wait to observe her response and how it reopened her fresh emotional trauma. Midsommar is filled with these moments, where the audience may know what's coming but not exactly how Dani will respond, and that personalization and emphasis on her perspective made the simplification work. On the other end, Midsommar is very obvious with its very obvious influences. I'm hesitant to cite by name these influences because it gives away the game as far as where the plot is headed, but if you've seen the trailer then you likely already have a healthy guess. Again, it feels like Aster knows what his audience is anticipating because the homages are apparent. There's literally a bear suit at one point and a homemade lottery system to determine participation. It's all right there, in your face, and yet the movie doesn't move beyond these unsubtle reference points. Midsommar ends exactly where you would expect it to end and without a more satisfying sense of resolution to tie things up. While it hinges on the choices made by Dani and her response to them, it doesn't go into the consequences or implications of those choices, and leaves the audience hanging for more meaning never to materialize. Lord knows they could have carved some of that needed resolution from the overindulgent 140-minute running time. Much of Midsommar is methodically paced to build its unnerving and inquisitive atmosphere, to better immerse the audience in the peculiar rites and customs of this secluded cult. But a little goes a long way and after so many rituals it can become repetitious. There's at least twenty minutes that could have been trimmed to makes this movie less meandering. The woman sitting behind me at my screening openly complained, during yet another ritual, "When is this going to be over?" I was genuinely surprised to be laughing as often as I did, and that's because Midsommar has a very intentional camp element at its disposal. The cult rituals and behaviors are meant to be creepy but also goofy as we view them from the perspective of the outsider. It's the same perspective that informs the whole movie. We're learning alongside the characters about what this hidden world is like, layer by layer, and there's a sense of discovery that helps drive the film and kept my interest attained. These are pretty stupid characters because they should be turning around and running for home time and time again, and yet they stay behind. It becomes an unexpected dark comedy watching them ignore the many warning signs that are obvious to the audience. It's dumbfounding that after everything these characters would still drink what they are served. Horror is rife with stupid characters being ignorant to obvious dangers, but this movie turns it into consistent humor. There are moments of pure weirdness that just forced me to laugh heartily, and it definitely feels like that is the intended response. How else should one respond when a nude woman interrupts sexual coitus to start singing in your face? The characters aren't exactly the Ugly American depictions we've come to expect in movies where we root for their demise in a foreign setting. Nobody matters except for Dani and Christian, and even he is more a foil for her. He's not a bad person but he's also not helping her. The movie is dominated by Dani and her emotional journey. There are many scenes of her breaking down and Pugh (the breakout from the underseen Lady Macbeth) is our emotional anchor. Her performance is more grounded than Toni Colette's in Hereditary and a respite for the audience to come back to. The empathetic community of the pagan cult provides a comfort she is searching for. Pugh feels like a normal person struggling under trauma and relatable relationship woes. With two horror movies under his belt, Aster's style and signatures as a filmmaker are coming more into focus. He emphasizes atmosphere and mystery at the expense of plot. His movies have creepy images and moments, and Midsommar definitely has its spooky share, but these moments can also feel rather arbitrary. Why does someone wear a bear suit and not a moose suit? It doesn't matter because it's just atmospheric ephemera that doesn't tie into the plot. Why is there a "seer" with elephantitus who happens to be the byproduct of inbreeding? Because it looks weird, and never mind that that much inbreeding would take generations. The world building feels at the behest of the imagery and not the other way around. Also, you'll know you're watching an Ari Aster film if there's older full-frontal nudity, an emphasis on mental illness, suicide, religious cults, and wailing women. I mean like loud, painfully prolonged caterwauling. There are even moments where the cult acts like a chorus to the cries, climaxes, and wailing of others, and it goes from being weird to being obnoxious rather quickly. I predict Midsommar is going to be another hit with critics and self-styled horror elites and leave most general audiences bewildered and frustrated (Hereditary received a D+ rating from opening day audiences via CinemaScore). It's hard for me to see a broad audience willingly hopping aboard Ari Aster's wavelength, which seems engineered to be insular. It prizes creepy atmosphere at the behest of plot and structure, the pacing can be stubbornly slow and repetitious, and you're left wondering if anything amounted to anything. At least with Midsommar I feel like stripping down the narrative and streamlining made me more empathetic with the main heroine and her reactions, but it does make for a less ambitious and more predictable film that, despite being in bright sunlight, is content to stay hidden in the shadows of its influences. Nate's Grade: B-
    Nate Z Super Reviewer

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