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A little girl wears a crown of flowers and stands nose-to-nose with a grizzly bear, peering into its beady eyes. This scene appears as a painting hanging in the apartment of graduate student Dani (Florence Pugh), foreshadowing the stand-off between this young woman and her own grisly nightmare in Ari Aster’s uneven follow-up to horror smash Hereditary.
Dani’s four-year relationship with anthropology student Christian (Jack Reynor) is already on the rocks when she joins him and buddies Josh (William Jackson Harper), Mark (Will Poulter, proving himself as a gifted comic) and “authentic hippie” Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) for a nine-day festival celebrating midsummer at Pelle’s home in rural Sweden. The Hårga community wear a uniform of wholesome white linen, greeting their guests with a recorder serenade and hallucinogenic teas; a sinister tapestry illustrates a love ritual in which a woman seasons a pie with her pubic hairs before offering it to her beloved. Aster, I believe, is taking the piss.
Aster lets the Hårga’s rituals unfold over tedious stretches of time (the film runs nearly two and a half hours), revelling in geometric images, pagan symbols, sunbleached Swedish fields and trippy CGI; flower crowns bloom and trees liquefy as the characters lose their heads. Annoying then, that there is no puzzle to solve. As the film sways drunkenly towards its inevitable conclusion, Aster fails to conjure a sense of dread or even tension – essential qualities of the horror genre.
Pugh is riveting as a woman unravelling, straining to stifle an animal cry; wounded but alert and fighting beneath the weighted blanket of grief. The film works better as a comedy than a horror, skewering its ignorant US tourists, and better still as a spiteful relationship drama. Aster wrote the film after an ugly breakup. Watching the already weakening bond disintegrate between Dani and her passive-aggressive PhD student boyfriend is its own perverse pleasure.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Midsommar review – dread-free horror | Film