Midsommar (2019)

ARI ASTER

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBUSA, 2019, Screenplay by Cinematography by Produced by , Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by

A post-graduate student, played with expert precision by , experiences a devastating loss in her personal life that throws her off kilter and into the arms of her already terse relationship with boyfriend .  Despite her never having fully gotten along with his friends , and , she accepts an invitation to join the four of them on a trip to Blomgren’s home village in Sweden, a remote and idyllic commune whose pagan traditions will likely be the subject of Harper’s anthropology thesis.  They arrive and are greeted by bright sunshine, blue skies, and a Smurf Village-style community of happy people with sleepy smiles who are devoted to celebrations of nature.  When the visitors, who also include Pelle’s friends from London, are invited to view what turns out to be a very disturbing and brutal circle-of-life ritual, they are frightened but encouraged to put their bourgeois discomfort away and acclimate themselves to what is going on.  As friendly and peaceful as the place is, however, Pugh starts to notice things that ratchet up her anxiety: companions start to go missing, one particular girl is very fixated on Raynor, and the rituals of feasting and sun-saluting keep getting more and more intense as time goes on.  Visually striking and told with the chilling tone, free of manipulation, that director Ari Aster established so well in Hereditary, this moody horror movie also features a smoother screenplay that is more consistent than his breakthrough film.  The problem is that it’s too predictable to justify its weighty two and a half hour running time: it’s a story of a group of strangers who come to a secretive and closed community that refuses to have its traditions recorded but is also open to strangers, what else but the film’s eventual ending are we expecting?  Aster’s presentation of academics is limp, none of these characters are believable as PhD candidates, but that’s not nearly as obnoxious as the attitude he seems to have of thinking that he’s the only person who ever read Shirley Jackson or watched The Wicker Man.  In the case of Robin Hardy’s masterpiece, that was a film whose brilliance was tricking you into thinking you knew the perspective from which the story was being told, and then switched things up in the end; here the outcome is obvious from the get go, but, thankfully, waiting for it to happen is only frustrating for your intellect, not your patience.

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