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What Went Wrong With… Midsommar?

A review of Ari Aster's Midsommar by What Went Wrong Or Right With...?From John Singleton to M. Night Shyamalan, when a writer-director’s first full-length feature is so impressive, their follow-up is disappointing by comparison. This is also true of Ari Aster, who just last year brought us the highly original horror movie Hereditary. Unfortunately his latest film Midsommer is unsatisfying on many levels. This is a film that is billed as a “folk horror” with some critics highlighting the comedy element of the film but I didn’t find the movie to be particularly scary or funny. Midsommar is essentially a rip-off of the 1973 film The Wicker Man, or more accurately it’s The Wicker Man meets The Love Witch by way of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Apostle. This mish-mash of other films doesn’t result in a movie that’s original or satisfying so you’re left feeling unmoved and disinterested.

The plot of Midsommer is supposed to be straight-forward: a group of Americans get invited to Sweden to take part in a celebration that only occurs every 90 years but surprise, surprise, they find they’re actually taking part in a Pagan cult’s murderous festival. When you finally watch this film however, you realise that the plot has lots of unnecessary backstories, and they add nothing to the movie except extend the running time. There’s bi-polar disorder, anxiety disorder, suicide, thesis quarrels, relationship break-ups but none of this has any bearing on the unfolding story line. Hereditary also included a jumble of topics but they all converged to make a very distinctive film. Midsommar on the other hand is far from original. Imagine if The Wicker Man had a pointless side-plot about the Police Sergeant quarrelling with his cop buddies whilst going through relationship issues; not only would you be bored out of your skull, you’d be wondering what the point was.

Since you cannot avoid making comparisons to The Wicker Man when talking about Midsommar, I’ll remind everyone that the main focus of the original movie was to lure a devout Christian virgin to an island to sacrifice – pretty straight-forward – but here, are all these characters and their slightly convoluted lives useful to a Swedish Pagan cult? There’s Dani (Florence Pugh) a Psychology student who takes Lorazepam for anxiety about her bi-polar sister who has committed suicide and killed her parents, her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) wants to end their relationship but can’t because it would be bad timing. Christian has some Phd Uni buddies (including a nerd and a sex-starved twat) and two of them start feuding over who should write a thesis about the community they live with. Great, but why if you’re a cult pick them over anybody else? Who knows? I suppose one of them is called “Christian” (another nod to The Wicker Man) but other than a name there’s no rhyme nor reason why these people are selected.

Florence Pugh (who plays the bereaved girlfriend Dani Ardor) is the only decent actor in the entire film. Jack Reynor (who plays the boyfriend Christian Hughes), and friends William Jackson Harper (as Josh), Vilhelm Blomgren (as Pelle), and Will Poulter (as Mark) are far from being likeable, in fact you want them all to be sacrificed as soon as you see them chatting in the pizza restaurant. Reynor’s face in particular, is off-putting, kinda like seeing Jason Clarke in any film but I digress.

The Swedes in this movie are a Pagan cult who seem have read David Pinner’s Ritual and studied Sigurd Agrell’s Uthark Theory, but more importantly they’re also offensive stereotypes (herring-eating, blue-eyed, blonde-haired, unemotional, suicidal, sexually-liberal folk). Ari could have added Abba, Volvo, and Ikea to the mix but that may have been a tad too far.

Whilst watching this film, I couldn’t help but think what an outdated concept this really is. It’s a very mid-to-late twentieth century trope to pick a culture that the majority of the audience have no knowledge of and proceed to demean and vilify them. What this film shows is that there’s an art to demonising a foreign culture and whether it’s Amicus’ The Ghoul (Indians), Tales That Witness Madness (Hawaiians), Southern Comfort (Cajuns), or even Wrong Turn (Virginians) people have to believe (either through ignorance or prejudice) the culture, community, or race their watching. But unlike those flicks, this film doesn’t convincingly portray an unknown community, all it shows is that Hollywood has run-out of foreign races to mock and they’ve now resorted to ridiculing their own.

I have to point out that watching this film at my local cinema was made worse by the immature audience who were laughing (at all the wrong places). If fannies and willies make you giggle you are one. It really is a strange thing to witness descendants of European Pagans and Druids (here in the UK) who are oblivious to their heritage. Most of the world celebrates Spring and Harvest, hell, even the pyramid stage at the Glastonbury Festival has a Pagan reasoning behind it. It’s very odd that people of today find fertility rites strange and yet they rush out to buy eggs at Easter. Are people of today that ignorant of the past?

If you’ve ever been Maypole dancing (as my school made me do as a child) or listened to folk music, much of this film’s topics are the opposite of terrifying and given the daytime setting, it would have taken a horror maestro to make this film scary. I recall the day-set scene in Insidious (with the Tiny Tim song playing) which James Wan crafted quite well but aside from that, there’s something inherently non-threatening about a sunny day and Midsommar does nothing to change this instinctive feeling we all have about daylight.

There’s also quite a few aspects of Midsommar that don’t make sense. Firstly, Christian’s friends say they’re going to Sweden in June or July but the festival crowns a “May Queen”. We’re also told that in this culture people die at age 72 but this is a 90 year festival which means people die every year or every 9 years and nobody cares. Or are foreigners invited every 90 years in order to procreate with, which would make everybody born outside of this 90 year cycle a product of incest which would in turn ruin their “scripture”?

This film could have shown what Americans (and Brits) are like abroad but that was better conveyed in the first Hostel. There could have been a comment about how religions choose their deity or messenger (or “oracle” in this case) but that wasn’t really honed-in on. There’s a quick comment about what we in the west do to our old people (put them in nursing homes) but the rest of the film doesn’t explore differences in culture. I mean, we also take hallucinogenic drugs and dance till we drop but that wasn’t a viewpoint either.

It’s a given that if you make a “folk horror” it’s automatically going to be compared to the classic The Wicker Man but if you’re actually copying that movie including the ending, then there’s no surprise and not much point in going to see it. A film that isn’t unique has to have some meat to the story, some other reason to fork out for tickets. If a film reminds you of others it should have a built-in allegory or should be a morality tale but Midsommar is neither. When the credits roll you’re left thinking “what was the point to all of this?”. It’s almost like Ari Aster threw darts onto a board of post-it notes with story ideas written on them. I read somewhere that it was down to a producer’s request for a Swedish-set slasher film that Aster made this movie and even though he steered well-clear of tired slasher cliches, he instead wandered into other overdone filmic concepts. This movie would have been interesting if it was made by an Asian or African; a person of colour from a completely different culture viewing European society and history and caricaturing it because it’s so different. The fact that white people have now resorted to insulting white cultures makes me think that this is yet another fake-woke idea or prejudice horror is a characteristic only of Hollywood.

Ari Aster’s debut film Hereditary was also partly about cults but that tale was dark and mysterious rather than bright and cartoonish which is the case here. I still think Ari is a talented writer and director and he’s allowed to have a few blips in his career but please, can everybody stop overrating average movies? I mean Jordan Peele who made one of the most overrated “horror” films since The Exorcist praised this film so highly, I wondered if he watched an alternate cut…

You’ve taken Stepford Wives and shattered the attractiveness of that movie with this one. That alone is a feat. Also, there are some obvious comps out there, but this movie is just so unique. This hasn’t existed yet, and anything after Midsommar is going to have to contend with it. I mean, this usurps The Wicker Man as the most iconic pagan movie to be referenced.” He goes on: “It’s a very unique feeling for a film to conjure because after it ended, I found myself looking back at the final act like, ‘Holy shit. That was some of the most atrociously disturbing imagery I’ve ever seen on film'”.

…I wonder if he’d drank some of the “tea” in Midsommar before he watched it.

What Midsommar shows is that rip-offs are accepted, that D-list actors are fine as long as the lead is talented, that Horror standards have fallen but more importantly that the entertainment sector loves to blow smoke up the arse of directors who’ve made one decent film.

Middling-Sommar.

Writing: 4/10

Directing: 5/10

Acting: 4/10

Overall: 5/10

23 replies »

  1. Seems to me that this film was intended to be a horror but the audience didn’t think so. Some people thought it was a comedy so they reworked the trailer to make it look like humor was their original intention. Mark of a bad film maker me thinks.

    • After watching it on YouTube I agree… “Clubbing, BBQ, Bingo” WTF? It’s the opposite of the original trailer. I still don’t see what’s funny about it though, in fact it’s pretty shite if it’s supposed to be a comedy.

    • It’s odd that Green Inferno is a much better movie (with just as strong imagery) and got slaughtered by the critics. That film was racist, however, because it was set in South America. This film is not because it features a cult of Aryans… or, crassly stereotypical Swedes… depending on your viewpoint.

      I’ve heard this film being put over by reviewers as somehow empowering for women. In reality you know nothing about the female lead other than that she is bereaved. You learn absolutely nothing tangible about her as a character (other than her self-obsession). Did she get on with her parents? Does she enjoy her studies? Is she a good friend? Who knows. She’s just a victim of circumstances and chiefly of her boyfriend’s passivity… the fact that she tolerates his passivity rather than finding another boyfriend who meets her emotional needs… is not a sin?

      By the end, this beautiful blonde lead is ultimately ’empowered’ by her own passivity, need for empathy and the scriptures of this new society.

      The film could actually read like a satirical commentary on the exploitation of female empowerment by the liberal media. Unfortunately, it’s not that clever. It’s also very boring, not at all scary and only sporadically funny.

      Should have been made as an outright black comedy featuring Aubrey Plaza in the lead role.

      3/10… second half of the movie 1/10, actually.

    • I can’t stand Aubrey Plaza – she always has an “aware” expression – as though she’s conscious about the camera being there plus she helped make the godawful Child’s Play reboot the disappointment it was.

      I never watched Green Inferno, I thought it was a racist premise as soon as the trailers were released. Because of Hereditary, I assumed Midsommar had something intelligent to say, I was willing to give it a chance but in the end the anti-Swede sentiment was the overriding message. I don’t buy into the “empowerment” crap – critics said the same thing about The Perfection, which was another fake-feminist crapfest.

  2. I was really disappointed with this movie too, and yeah, I immediately thought this was a Wicker Man ripoff. It was more gross or uncomfortable than really scary, and yeah people laughing at boobs and dicks was really annoying. I can’t believe this has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 82 at the moment of this posting. Really??? Have people really lost it this badly that this is entertaining?

  3. Hi, thank god. I thought was the only who is disappointed by the film. There were way to many plot holes that lead nowhere. I hated all the characters.

    The film played all its cards right in the beginning like Christian and his mates are terrible, pelle’ s intentions are pretty obvious extra. At some point I was thinking it is all or there is more to it ?? Josh was an interesting character. At least he wanted to study the cult.

    Good review 👍👍

    Mutlu

  4. Are you all fucking retards? or just just fucking idiots…. sorry it didn’t live up to your mouth breathing standards but just because a film uses folk horror elements doesn’t mean its a god damn rip off of The Wicker Man…. i mean holy fuck where your eyes open during the god damn film? its fucking retards like you that fucking bring down film criticism as a whole.

    • So great that you crawled out of Ari Aster’s anus to leave that dumb fucking comment.

      The fact that you can’t spell (and write inane shit like “mouth breathing standards”) no wonder you enjoy overrated clones of classic films. And by the way, the original iteration of a movie is always mentioned when there’s a homage or copy: if I reviewed Meg I’d mention Jaws, if I reviewed Mac & Me I’d mention E.T.

      Midsommar didn’t just “use folk elements” – I didn’t compare it to Blood On Satan’s Claw or Witchfinder General – its plot involved outsiders going to a close-knit, insular, Pagan community who sacrificed the foreigners in a burning pyre. How is that not copying or at least referencing or inspired by The Wicker Man? You have to be an idiot not to see the similarities.

      With your cliched screen name (and email address) and the fact that you use worn-out slurs like “retard”, no wonder you don’t mind rip-offs. I’m surprised you left your Seattle hovel to go to the theater, didn’t you want to stay home and smoke some rain-soaked weed? Get the fuck off my site you daft cunt.

  5. Actually, this is an excellent review of a rather lousy film. Midsommar is indeed a ripoff of the The Wicker Man. The film almost comes off as being put together by someone with an animus toward Swedes rather than just trying to be horror film.

  6. i live in a town with no cinema. i used to live in a city with one.I thought it was a disadvantage that the town had no cinema, but after seeing honest reviews like these of all these crap money-sucking “films” of this year, I feel amazing. At least my temptations won’t make me buy a ticket to a crapfest like Midsommar, Yesterday, Dark Phoenix, F&F:H&S, etc… 2019 is a dull year for any movie fan. Sorry for being offtopic a bit but I actually thought Endgame was a cliched and wack sequel to Infinity War. It should have been released after the plot had fully worked but no, money hungry execs had to release it right after IW. SMH…

  7. Both the hype and the insatiable liberal whinging over this overrated predictable rip-off shit-fest is sad as fuck. Another gynocentric self-hating white femini$t cuckboii who infantilizes ~WYMYN~ and demonizes men (and male sexuality) busts an empty nut trying to make virtue-signaling, collectivism, anti-essentialism, multiculturalism, grief and quasi-nihilism all edgy and shit. He tried desperately to be subversive and atypical… like everyone else. There was supposed to be some deep and interesting socio-historical & ethical questions in there but it got lost in its own “artistic” self-flagellation. The lead female can’t act for shit and her whiny woe-is-me non-existent personality felt forced, dull & contrived. It dribbled on for too long (“bUt ThAtS tHe PoInT!!!11”) such that i was falling asleep by the end of it. 0/10, waste of time, effort, money, resources, oxygen, etc.

    • Aster tried to make multiculturalism edgy? How and where? He had two ethnic minorities in the whole film. They were a couple and therefore didn’t date white people plus they were amongst the first to die which is a horror cliche dating back to god-knows when.

    • @What Went Wrong Or Right With…? Exactly my point, fam. He was (~~ironically~~) satirizing monoculturalism & the exclusivity of race-relations by exploiting stereotypes & depicting a monoculture in a negative light (of course, that monoculture had to be white, though, otherwise “RaCiSt NaZi!!!!”). The background implication being “multiculturalism good (WHITE) monoculturalism bad”. Ironically, in a sense, it doesn’t matter whether there was a non-white person/couple/group in the film for 0, 2, 20, 120, or 232 mins, as victims or perpetrators; the films thematic criticism & the SJW reaction would’ve been exactly the same.

      >therefore didn’t date white people
      Non-sequitur.

      Also, you, like Ari, conveniently conflated race, ethnicity, & culture. There’s a clear semantic & sociological difference between those.

    • Not really, since whether in the US or UK, black people (not white, therefore race) whether they originate from Africa, Asia, South America etc, are both ethnic minorities but simultaneously part of the country’s identity including its culture. The couple in Midsommar were British based on their accent but they were obviously of mixed ethnicities (mixed-race Nigerian and of Indian decent I think) but there was no point in dragging in heritage when it was quite clear I was talking about the British couple consisting of two people of colour.

      “Didn’t date white people” is not really a non-sequitur because my stance is that Ari Aster is not edgy at all. The convention of minorities sticking together or being separate from white people (majority) in the West isn’t edgy. Demonising Aryans (the Nazi definition not the Indo-European) isn’t edgy especially since Ari is Jewish. The white woman from the multicultural country then becomes part of the mono-cultural society so there’s no real comment on either. There is therefore, nothing unconventional or controversial happening in this movie whether “SJWs” liked it or not.

      And BTW what’s with your use of “fam”?

    • Plus, I’d like to know whether you have an anti-gyno-feminist outburst every time you watch a horror movie? There are literally thousands of horror films including Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween where a sole female protagonist survives, the men die, and a white male/group of males are the antagonist/s. Weren’t the 1970s a pro-masculine time? Because it happened back then too – hence not edgy.

    • I dig your site and your reviews are pretty spot on. Don’t see why you need to attack the people agreeing with you though. But whatever works! Wanted to say I just saw the movie and I totally agree, 3 hour arthouse circle jerk. More and more nights are ruined by trusting reviews from snowflakes and SJWs too scared to sleep in the dark. I’ll start taking a look at some of your recommendations.

  8. I agree with your review entirely. Curious to see why you believe hereditary was any different. I thought that movie was comical.

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