Midsommar: worth the hype but not for the squeamish

Pop Culture Corner: Frolic in the Scandinavian meadows at your own risk

Image courtesy of Square Peg and B-Reel Films via W Magazine.

By: Ana Staskevich, Staff Writer

Midsommar, directed by Ari Aster who also directed the 2018 horror Hereditary, wastes no time throwing its audience into the seemingly idyllic fields of Hälsingland, Sweden. Filled with flowers, gorgeous scenery, and psychedelic drugs, the film appears to be set in complete paradise — that is, if you can look past all the sacrificial cult stuff.

We follow the emotional journey of Dani Ardor, who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks which are heightened by a tragedy she experiences at the start of the film. Her boyfriend, Christian, and his friends, Josh and Mark, plan to embark on an anthropological thesis trip to Sweden, invited by their friend and Hälsingland native Pelle. Dani comes along for the ride, desperate to escape the muteness of her old life despite the rough waters between her and her boyfriend.

Once the camera dips upside down as the group enters Hälsingland, shit really starts to hit the fan. Immersed in a world of white gown-clad Swedes and funky tea, the promise of the everlasting midnight sun turns sour as the festivities of the “midsommar” festival begin. Make no mistake, this is still very much a horror film — just not in the traditional sense that you might think. There are no monsters obscured by darkness and no cheap jump scares that seem to happen every 15 seconds (I’m looking at you, Insidious movies!). Rather, the horrors are out in the open, right amidst the beautiful Swedish women baking pies and the aesthetically pleasing architecture. Aster does not shy away from the gore, and the film left me feeling queasy in a lot of its scenes.

In a recent interview, Aster has described this film as a “break-up movie [that is] more a fairy tale than a horror film”. While that may be the director’s intention and interpretation, there is a definite sense fear that follows you along every minute of this 2 hour and 47 minute “fairy tale.” 

This film has been rated as R for a reason, and there are major trigger warnings for suicide, intense violence, and sexual content (do NOT take these warnings lightly!). If you are a horror movie fan, especially if you enjoyed Hereditary, you will be pleasantly surprised by Aster’s mindfuckery and attention to detail in this movie. However, just keep in mind that there are restrictions to Midsommar for a reason, so maybe avoid watching it on a full stomach.