Writer/director Ari Aster’s follow up to the critically acclaimed and highly successful horror feature HEREDITARY is a sprawling 2 hour 20 minutes occasionally disorienting horror piece that at times forgets that it is a horror movie.
At the special pre-screening of MIDSOMMAR that was graced by the presence of director Aster and actor Jack Reyner, the director describes his film, and very accurately so, about a film on codependency. It is a break-up story, as the audience also learns that the director himself was undergoing one when he wrote the script.
At the Q & A, Aster, clearly jet lagged and understandably disoriented kept beating about the bush when asked direct questions, often taking a full 5 minutes on a straightforward question. This could be the reason his film stretched out to 140 minutes. But to Aster’s credit, what the film company A24 planned as a straightforward slasher film set among a Swede cult has turned into something more relevant, human and believable. Aster did a lot of research on European folklore and history culminating in what can be witnessed as a worthwhile effort. Though set in Sweden, the film was shot in Budapest, Hungary for financial reasons.
MIDSOMMAR ends up as an engaging folk horror film that follows a group of friends who travel to Sweden for a festival that only occurs once every 90 years. Christian (Jack Reyner) and Dani (Florence Pugh), a young American couple, are having trouble with their relationship. The story points out that is a dysfunctional one that should not go on. Dani is over possessive and Christian is not there for Dani when she needs him most, as when her parents and sister are killed from gas poisoning. She follows Christian and his friends to a commune in Sweden where the relationship is further put to the test. As the group stay on, weirder and weirder incidents take place that have to be seen to be believed. Aster does an excellent build up.
The film is well shot with colourful exteriors – large field in Hungary standing in for Sweden with bright coloured huts of the commune. The young actors Pugh and Reyner form good chemistry as the dysfunctional couple. There is an emotional scene where Dani is laid across Christian’s lap crying, bawling her eyes out at the death of her family. That image is reminiscent of he unforgettable image of the tortured couple in Alfred Hitchcock’s TORN CURTAIN. But the scene is dark and one cannot see Christian crying as a result of Dani crying. Actor Reyner during the Q & A confessed he cried as a result of Pugh’s emotional outburst.
Though the film is generally slow, it is even paced and is an absorbing watch. There has not been such a slow moving film where time actually flies through the films running time. Aster at the Q & A says that he has several scripts ready to be directed but none of them horror. His HEREDITARY and MIDSOMMAR are marginally horror films, so nothing much will be changed.