Director Ari Aster followed up his smash hit performance of Hereditary with an equally grim film in Midsommar. When thinking of his sophomore show, only one term comes to mind: brutal. Aster delivers grotesque violence and psychedelic imagery from bell to bell with barely any lapses to let the audience simmer. Instead, nearly every moment in the film is full of tension or all-out debauchery. The film’s seeming enchanting premise of rural Sweden quickly turns violent with a cult-like commune present throughout the film and shaping the viewer’s expectations.
This is never more apparent than in a ritualistic scene with two of the eldest members of the commune. They stand atop a cliff covered with runes before flinging themselves onto rocks with the rest of the commune watching. Just when you think the film cannot be any more brutal, you discover the male counterpart of the pair has not perished. The Swedish commune members do what any responsible citizen would do and simply bash his skull in with a large mallet. Throughout this traumatic experience, the American protagonists are freaking out (justifiably) while the camera remains trapped on the dismembered bodies of the elderly, showing every graphic detail.
Every scene throughout the movie focuses on this violence and is preparing the audience for it. Not in a cushioning way, mind you. Instead, Aster does all that he can to promote tension and wheel the audience into each scenario. One element he uses expertly is the psychedelic imagery. While there is certainly a vast amount of trippy sensations going on with the characters ingesting magic mushrooms in addition to the psychedelic teas brought forth by the commune, Aster employs searing visuals and high-octane sound to gestate in the viewer’s mind, leading them up to when it assuredly gets incredibly violent.
This movie had nearly everything complete to make it not only a quality film, but a well-done and exquisitely violent horror flick. The acting is great, displaying extremes from mild-mannered characters quickly turning into devilish figures. What really sets it apart as well as outlining the violent natures present in both the characters and setup of the film is the directorial style. Aster uses numerous camera pans and upside-down angles to convey significant depravity as well as an overall sense of confusion. The main effect from the film comes through in its ferocity and the ever-present commentary on the vigorous nature of human brutality and masochism. The state of pain forced through in Aster’s vision relies solely upon the complexes at play with the tortuous violence and next-level sadism, with tension truthfully set up to marinate in the viewer’s head until ready to burst.