"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Midsommar

MIDSOMMAR is the new one from HEREDITARY writer/director Ari Aster. It’s about a group of drugged out (and in some cases horny) young people running into some craziness during a summer vacation, so hopefully nobody will pretend it’s not a horror movie.

It’s very much in the vein of Aster’s first one, because it has weird and ridiculously detailed cult rituals, meticulously designed sets and camera moves, slow ominous dread building to big/crazy/gory payoffs uncharacteristic of modern arthouse horror, superb acting performances, an emphasis on tense relationships and heavy emotions, and an undercurrent of dark, uncomfortable humor that got a bunch of big laughs in the audience I saw it with (though, if HEREDITARY is any indication, people will tell me I imagined that). So it’s a similar template, but a very different palette, because there’s nothing supernatural and there’s not much darkness. It takes place in an old-timey village in Sweden where everyone wears white, it’s sunny all day, and the nights are short and never get all the way dark.

The story starts in a gloomy U.S. winter, when a young woman named Dani (Florence Pugh, THE COMMUTER) is worried about a strange message she got from her bipolar sister. She calls her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor, TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION), who exasperatedly convinces her she’s being too dramatic, and seems to be on the verge of following his buddy Mark (Will Poulter, THE REVENANT)’s pleas to dump her. But it turns out she was right to be concerned – a horrible tragedy takes her family from her, and suddenly we jump to June and she’s still spending her days in sweatpants crying into Christian’s lap. Not only has he begrudgingly stayed with her – he sort of by accident ends up bringing her on a trip to Sweden with his anthropology-class-bros Mark, Josh (William Jackson Harper, PATERSON), and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), who has invited them all to a festival at his ancestral home, which they expect to be sort of a hippie commune. And sure enough they’re given psychedelics before they even put their luggage down.

I love the set up because it’s emotionally messy and awkward in a very true way. I think Christian is a jerk and a terrible boyfriend without the patience or empathy Dani needs, but I also relate to him a little. I definitely had times in my life when I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to help with the things my girlfriends were going through. He really thinks he cares about her, but he’s self-absorbed and wants the hard part to be over so he can do happy young people shit. And that’s where he’s at before Dani has to deal with a crushingly traumatic tragedy. He’s completely unqualified to support her. They’re bad for each other, they should’ve broken up before, but he’s just nice enough to think he’d be an asshole to dump her while she’s in this state.

And Mark is a bigger asshole than Christian, but it’s understandable that he’s bummed to hear at the last minute “oh yeah, my girlfriend who you never liked is coming along on our Euro-trip, because she’s too sad to leave at home.” Poulter blew me away as a racist psycho cop in Kathryn Bigelow’s DETROIT, but he’s more fun to watch as a funny dickbag. And I like the detail that he vapes. There’s something comical about him hanging out in this idyllic village just wanting to get high and get laid. He actually wanted the trip to go through Stockholm, where I’m sure he would’ve ended up in HOSTEL IV or something.

I don’t blame Dani for not knowing she’s ruining their trip, because she’s taking them at their word that they want her to come. Pelle I think is even sincere about it. And it’s a good opportunity to get the hell away from her regular life and try to make a change. Pugh is so good at showing Dani’s breakdowns and her efforts to communicate and be understanding and forgiving of shitty things Christian does. We can see that she’s giving him way too much slack. Even when she’s going through this bad time she has to call and talk him into hanging out, tell him “I’m so lucky to have you,” then call a friend worried that she’s scaring him away.

I’ve read that this is a long movie, but it didn’t seem too long to me. If anything, the length mimics the feeling of endless vacation days with no responsibilities, just laying around in the sun, getting high between a succession of odd local activities you’re invited on. The American visitors stay at a little bit of an ironic distance, reluctant to fully participate in the traditions (though Mark and Christian start interviewing people and trying to find out more for thesis purposes). Some of it’s fun, but then they have to sleep with the whole village in a big open temple where a baby cries all night, and they get pushed into watching things they’re not comfortable with, and guilted if they’re judgmental about it. There’s some scary shit, but the people who do it have no idea they’re bad guys. They make a strong argument for their belief system.

I wasn’t sure I’d be so won over by MIDSOMMAR. When I first saw the trailer I had a kneejerk “yeah, I saw THE WICKER MAN too” reaction. There are definitely similarities to that original movie about a man trapped by a weird folksy cult, but it never feels like just a riff on it. Other movies that came to mind at certain points were THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and EYES WIDE SHUT, and a friend brought up ANNIHILATION, which hadn’t occurred to me but made perfect sense. Thinking of it now, there’s a little bit of CANDYMAN in the way that some of the protagonists are looking at these people’s lives through an academic lens, clueless to their intrusion and the danger they’re in. But they’re less ethical than Virginia Madsen’s character was so I’m less forgiving of them. There’s also a part (it involves a bear) that made me wonder if it could be a reference to one of the most beloved parts of the Nic Cage version of WICKER MAN. Either way, hats off to that scene.

I love writing and talking about horror movies, but it’s safer to write about old ones. We can disagree about those in peace, but new ones can be weirdly divisive. Experience tells me there will be people viscerally angry at MIDSOMMAR for reasons I won’t be able to relate to, and we won’t even agree what the tone or pacing or emotions are like, as if we saw totally different movies. To me it has a sense of fun and entertainment that the dry, quiet movies like THE WITCH (strategically, arguably successfully) don’t, but I’m sure some will claim otherwise.

You can probly tell I’m dreading whatever the argument will be. So many of us have our identities wrapped up in being horror fans, and we get territorial and grumpy about what counts as “real” horror, what horror is supposed to be or not supposed to be, who’s supposed to like it or not like it, who’s supposed to make it. And I’ve been there, you’ve all seen me there, but I’m bored of that shit. I want there to be a wide variety of styles and voices and approaches in horror. There is room for cheesy/lowbrow and “elevated”/”pretentious” and in-betweens and weird combinations that don’t fit easily on that spectrum. Nobody’s gonna like all of them, but what’s the point in getting very mad about any of them?

It’s no skin off the ass-shaped face of the guy from SOCIETY if you can’t stand this particular approach to horror. If you’re one of those people who only respects movies of some specific past era and never likes anything new, then obviously you are doomed to be complaining for eternity. The rest of us are gonna be fine. Something else came along after PG-13 teen meta-slashers, J-horror remakes, “torture porn,” “nu horror,” Platinum Dunes remakes, found footage and ghost movies, and something will come along after A24. Horror will keep shambling along.

To me MIDSOMMAR has a unique flavor, but it lives up to its responsibility to deliver on a normal horror movie level. It has characters to root for and against, with some interesting ambiguities, it made me laugh and wince and laugh-wince, it surprised me, it made me emotional, it took me on a ride, it ended on an unexpected but perfect note, it seems better and better the more I think about it. I kinda loved this one.

BIG SPECIFIC READ ONLY AFTER THE MOVIE SPOILER SECTION

Maybe I’m naive but I didn’t see the ending coming at all. And I suppose when I say “the ending” I could mean that Dani is not the final victim (our knowledge of THE WICKER MAN used against us), but mostly I just mean her big smile. My first reaction was that she was happy because she was free of her drip of a boyfriend. I saw it as almost a punchline that she was given the choice to kill either her own boyfriend or random guy who is part of this cult and believes in it. Ordinarily that should be an easy, if upsetting choice, and the idea that she might have to think about it is really funny to me. I kinda thought they were gonna cut to the credits on that thought. Just hesitating would be cold enough but apparently she says yeah, take my boyfriend!

(Aster has said the script was written in response to a bad break up – notice that “Dani Ardor” even kinda sounds like “Ari Aster” – so I feel bad for whoever that was. Yes, he wants to sew you up in a bear corpse and burn you alive. But there are other fish in the sea!)

Of course it quickly occurred to me that it was about more than ditching Christian. This whole process, this weird barbaric exploration of the life cycle, really has helped Dani with her grief, as Pelle said it would. It’s like THE GAME, sort of! This whole insane thing she’s been through has worked as some kind of unorthodox therapy. That made me wonder about the details of Pelle’s backstory. Knowing it’s a horror movie you assume from the beginning that he has nefarious motives, but in the end I think it’s fair to say he’s sincere. He said he lost both of his parents, so he must’ve gone through this himself, it must’ve helped him with his loss, and that’s why he’s so evangelical about it. Then again, he said they died in a fire. That could mean they were sacrificed!

Maybe I’m wrong about that though, because he says this festival only happens once every 90 years. I’m a little confused about that bit. They all seem very familiar with how it all works. And people must turn 72 more often than every 90 years. I’m not sure how it works, but it’s intriguing. In HEREDITARY I sort of liked that I couldn’t make sense of all of it and was okay leaving it like that. Here I’m more curious.

(I’d also like to go back to that drawing at the beginning that surely illustrates what happens in the movie, but you can’t really decipher it without context.)

I like how whenever someone is, say, screaming in pain because they jumped off a cliff but didn’t die, or because they’re on fire, that the other people mimic their screams. That was one thing that made me think of TEXAS CHAIN SAW, but when those guys did it it was a form of taunting. I might’ve thought that at first here, but in the scene where Dani falls to her knees bawling and the other girls gather around her and repeat all the sounds she makes, it seemed like a nice thing to do. She has lost her entire family. They talk about making people members of their family. Her boyfriend and friends are not very supportive. Pelle talks about having someone to “lean on.” Here is this group of people sharing in her pain, echoing it, perhaps amplifying it so she can get it all out, or spreading it around to dilute it. I doubt this is a good form of therapy. But I get it. I can see why it might be helpful to her.

Funniest part in my opinion: Ingemar (Hampus Hallberg) apologetically admitting that maybe he should’ve been more clear that they were going to watch old people jump off a cliff and get their heads smooshed by a giant hammer. And the annoyed “what the hell is their problem?” looks that some of the villagers give Connie and Simon (Ellora Torchia and Archie Madekwe) for freaking out about it.

But the biggest laugh for the whole audience was when Christian was fucking the little sister and that lady leaned in and started singing to him. Possibly surpassed by the subsequent butt-pumping shot.

Yeah, this one’s quite a journey.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 8th, 2019 at 12:59 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

112 Responses to “Midsommar”

  1. I liked this one so much that it might end up retroactively changing my opinion about Hereditary, which I thought was an ok but vastly overrated movie with some supremely silly shit at the end. The vibe I got from his first movie was that Aster was a self-serious filmmaker who wanted to make a self-serious family melodrama, but was forced to slum it by adding in some horror stuff because nobody really makes those movies anymore. Then I read some takes by VERN and others who thought the movie was in on the joke. It was an intriguing idea, but not enough to get me to revisit the movie. Midsommar is pretty clearly going for laughs during some horrific scenes, that are easy to laugh at and even make fun of (as I think some people in my theater were doing) in the moment, but are quite likely to come back and haunt you after the movie’s over. That’s super brave filmmaking and I’m very glad that I seem to have been wrong about Ari Aster and I’m looking forward to revisiting Hereditary now that I feel like I have a better sense of his weird-ass sense of humor.

  2. I am aware that every horror cycle eventually ends, but it doesn’t make me hate these movies any less. But don’t worry, I’m not going to unleash the beast. I’m as tired of this argument as Vern is. Other cycles have been equally as distasteful to me, but the reaction to those felt like horror fans vs. the system. Most of us were on the same page about SCREAM ripoffs, the seven different PG-13 haunted house eras, and soulless remakes. This time it feels more like horror fans vs. each other. I don’t like that. I don’t begrudge anybody who likes the these movies, and I wouldn’t keep bitching about them if Vern’s ideal horror landscape was a reality. I think what we’re seeing here with the backlash against these films is just consumer frustration. I think what many of us are saying is “We do not respond to this particularly recipe and we would like to be served something different, please.” But when we say that, we are called morons who only want to see lowest common denominator stuff. Then we lash out at this attack on our intelligence by calling the other side snobs and dilettantes.

    There’s no winning that argument, because it’s not an argument. It’s just about personal taste, and there’s no reason to have to weaponize that in a horror culture where everybody is having their needs met. When one side isn’t getting what they need, though, you’re gonna get some pushback. I welcome diversity in horror, but that’s not what I’m seeing right now. I have said it before, but what I would like to see are movies that take horror in bold new directions that doesn’t necessarily always entail slowing it down to a crawl. We’re in an era of two-and-a-half hour horror movies. That’s as long as the first cut of APOCALYPSE NOW, for God’s sake. In my opinion, and I hope I’m not stepping on any toes here, but I think we’ve pushed the slow burn approach about as far as it can go.

    In an effort to stay positive, though, I will say that I’m hopeful that when this particularly lugubrious and plodding swing of the pendulum make its return voyage, it will swing back hard into the realm of the colorful and fangorious. I think this next cycle is gonna be really rock ’em sock ’em.

  3. I’m pretty much in the minority that thinks this movie sucks and I still hate A24 but I’ll try to argue against it in respectable manner. I won’t resort to make calling.

  4. Thanks everybody. I appreciate your patience with my pre-emptive whatever that was. I think part of where I get caught up, Majestyk, is that I don’t consider these two Ari Aster movies as “slow burns” like Ti West movies, THE WITCH, etc. Yes, they have long shots and build anticipation, but there are plenty of slasher movies with fewer (and certainly less outrageous) things happening than either of these movies. That they also treat the characters emotional lives more seriously than most is a bonus. To me they’re kind of a “best of both worlds” approach, but others don’t seem to see it that way.

  5. This looks really good to me. I’m hoping to catch it this week – I wasn’t expecting it to be in any of my local theaters, but it’s in 3 of them. I’ve never seen HEREDITARY, but I love THE WICKER MAN (the original) and THE VVITCH and Florence Pugh, so I think my expectations are properly attuned.

  6. I think my main problem is a couple of things. The first thing is that I found most of the movie really boring. The second thing is that they didn’t need 2.5 hours to tell this story, especially since it really doesn’t have anything of substance to say. I also thought the characterization of the leads were surface level, at best. I think far too many people are putting the blame on the boyfriend when she is every bit to blame for the situation she is in. It’s pretty clear even before the situation with her sister that they both knew this wasn’t the right relationship for them. I sympathize that they were too afraid to dump one another but I think the movie tries to have you sympathize with her at the end of the film and I was like “well she’s a terrible person”

    The other thing, btw, that I found distracting was how much the boyfriend looked like Seth Rogan. I kept picturing what Seth Rogan would have acted like. That’s on me but it was still distracting.

    I’ll give it some more time, I guess, before I get into spoilers but I’m probably the only one who thought the beginning tragedy was fucking ridiculous and Dani, while not to blame, should have called somebody other than her boyfriend, if you get what I’m saying.

  7. I don’t think the movie is asking or expecting us to sympathize with Dani at the end. She’s a good person who has gone through some terrible shit and this is how she deals with it. Maybe she’ll even find happiness, but I don’t think we’re necessarily expected to be happy about the way that happens. Obviously what she does to Christian is terrible, whether he was a shitty boyfriend or not. He didn’t deserve it but nor did Dani deserve all the tragedy she’s endured. It just is. And the ending just is. This is where her journey led her, and I think the film leaves it to the viewer as to how to feel about it. And that’s why I love it.

  8. I’m not sure what it says about me that I saw the ending as unequivocally happy and I was glad Dani made the decision she made. Her boyfriend was a spineless piece of shit and she did the right thing to rid herself of this toxic relationship. I loved it.

  9. Chuck, I’m afraid of you lol

  10. Larry Sternshein

    July 8th, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    There are two weird things about the craft of this movie. The production design and all the art work was really well done.

    What I don’t think was well done was the “gore” effects in the movie. Everything looked incredibly fake. Or how about that Austin Powers death midway through the movie. That shit was hilarious.

  11. I liked it too, Vern and once they got to Sweden it didn’t feel long to me either. If anything they could get there a tad quicker.

  12. really the over the top tragedy (that I still think was so over the top it was kinda funny) was probably not really needed and he could have done something different to get his point across while also speeding up this incredibly long movie.

    Real talk though, I think there is probably a disconnect here between how I feel about certain things and how Ari Aster thinks I should feel about things. Which is probably why it’s connecting to so many people and I’m like “that’s a fake looking dead body”

  13. I haven’t seen this, but – and I think Shoot will back me up – there’s very little religious or cultish about the way Midsommar is celebrated in Sweden. It’s a big party that’s mostly about food and lots of alcohol. But I Guess you could take any foreign tradition and make it scary if you wanted to.

  14. Anthony Bradley

    July 8th, 2019 at 10:11 pm

    I appreciate your positivity, vern.

    I’m not going to single out anyone because what I’m about to say comes from a place of love, but as a long time reader (since the Ain’t days) I’ve noticed a few regulars seem to dislike just about everything. I used to seek out comments from these certain members to get some insight or opinions, but the last couple years has seen the language of discussion become very negative, often without any real reason for it. It’s a bummer. I love film, and this site was a real haven. Still is, but I rarely get past the first few comments nowadays before I give up.

    I found this movie pretty entertaining. I got my money’s worth. I don’t love it because the pagan subject matter doesn’t peak my interest all that much, but I certainly don’t dislike it because a faction of the community loves hippy sacrifice movies, or because there’s a handful of directors who have a samey style. I’d rather talk about the bits that did interest me, or the interpretations that someone puts forward.

    Maybe I’m just wishing for a happy joy world of discussion that doesn’t exist. But the old “If you don’t have something nice to say…” adage might be a good one to bring back. Or just watch what makes you happy. If it don’t, on to something that does? <3

  15. Anthony Bradley

    July 8th, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    P.S. I’m not suggesting a no-criticism approach–just that there should be a reason for said criticism beyond “sucks cuz it’s not or it is _____.” One that adds to a conversation.

  16. Pegsman, have you been to Harga? Shit gets real in Harga.

  17. Sternshein – I disagree, I thought the gore effects were outstanding. Completely disgusting and horrifying. I guess when they carried the bodies at the end they were goofy looking, but I think it’s because they’re not bodies but skin stuffed with various things.

    What do you mean about Austin Powers? Was there some payoff I missed to the girl saying they were watching AUSTIN POWERS?

    Pegsman – It’s a fictional cult within Sweden. The idea was brought to Aster from a Swedish production company, and two Swedes get an “idea by” type credit.

  18. I have enjoyed pretty much all of these A24 fake-horror-movies-for-wankers, especially HEREDITARY, so very much looking forward to this one.

  19. The “Austin Powers” joke I was referring to was when the old guy jumps from the cliff. He jumps and falls feet first and just falls to the ground. There is silene and then after like a minute he starts moaning. It reminded me of when Wil Farrell gets put into the fire pit. Not to mention I thought the limb looked comically contorted from the fall and it as filmed where they put a dummy leg underhim but made no attempt to make it even look like his leg. Then the hammers come out and that looked fake too.

    Believe it or not I went in with an open mind because I thought I might enjoy the daylight setting and everything but ultimately this guy’s movies aren’t for me.

  20. BuzzFeedAldrin

    July 9th, 2019 at 6:16 am

    Long time lurker, first time poster (will be hooking your Patreon up soon, Vern).

    I totally respect your diplomatic views on horror tastes and trying to get ahead of the argument. I’m with Majestyk in that, as a horror fan, this current “hipster horror” phase is just something I’m going to have to wait out. I did not like Midsommar nor was I a big fan of Hereditary (or The WWitch or It Follows). But I know plenty of people who flipped for those movies. My wife, for example. LOVED Hereditary and was an even bigger fan of Midsommar. That there’s some dude out there making films about Pagan/occult practices that also traffic in themes of grief and the emotional struggles of women is somehow right in her zeitgeist and she couldn’t be happier. Me, I fell asleep during Hereditary and took an extended pee break during Midsommar.

    It was too Wicker Man for me. Hell, the poster for the movie broadcasts that loud and clear. Knowing what was going to happen before I even got to the theater, I expected the trope to be subverted. It wasn’t. Consequently, this movie felt like it was ten hours long. Less a slow burn and more an endless slog to get to its inevitable conclusion. There were some laughs (though it seemed like the crowd I saw it with was laughing more at scenes that were supposed to be serious) but there was also a lot of amateur-hour, freshman year of film school camera moves for no reason; big-time horror tropes (the couple that witnesses something terrible and then declares “we’re leaving first thing tomorrow!” Yeah, you’re gonna make until then. Eye roll.) and, like Sternshein said, the gore was mostly Troma-level. The bear effect was cool, though. I got it, but I wanted more of it or I wanted something different from it. But, if other reviews are any indication, I’m in the minority.

  21. I liked this a lot, I think more than Hereditary. There were many moments that were, literally, jaw dropping. That doesn’t happen enough in movies.

    I had some nitpicky stuff I didn’t like. I really had a hard time believing how easily they decided to stay after the cliff jumps. I also thought Christian kind of turns too quickly once they get the green light to pursue the thesis. But these are all nitpicks.

    I have yet to watch Hereditary a second time and not sure I would want to. I recommended Hereditaryt to so many people, but once it left the theaters I stopped bothering. I cannot imagine watching either of these movies at home, on TV, pausing every time the phone rang or while buying shit on Amazon.

    I do want to watch Midsommar again though, mostly because there was so much subtle little stuff going on. One scene at the dining table where the little flowers are just flowing and changing size, for example. And I am sure there are so many subtle hints as to what is going to happen in all the artwork around them. I immediately wanted to buy this on DVD with a director’s commentary.

    I hate the “slow burn” term that everyone keeps throwing out, but I get it. This movie takes it time, but I never found it boring. I saw that new Annabelle movie and boy that was a piece of crap. These jump startle horror movies are just awful. It doesn’t take any talent to startle someone. I can sit behind a door and yell “BOO” and make someone jump.

  22. they put iron fist in a bear

    A+

  23. I’ll co-sign the idea a few folks have mentioned that this isn’t really a slow-burn movie (definitely not in the Ti West sense). Instead of a slow boil accumulation of little things, the movie kicks off with a whopping big trauma and adds additional substantive traumas, all doled out at a decent pace. I will admit to a little trepidation going in because of the running time plus the fact that I didn’t love Hereditary plus that my local cinema has those big recliners that lend themselves very well to dozing off. My fears were unfounded though because I was engaged from the start and I was never aware of the time, which frankly is a rarity for me these days for any movie over two hours.

    I think one thing that made it so engaging for me is that just about every major beat was foreshadowed in some way, so you’d see something on a tapestry or painted on the wall or in some weird comment and then later it would play out in some way, It was like playing detective, scouring the background for clues while watching for how the things we’d already seen were going to pay off. Even the ending was foreshadowed with what seemed like a throwaway joke when they first arrived in Sweden and somebody said that the people were so attractive because the vikings had brought all the hottest women back with them and mated with them.

    My biggest nitpick would probably be that nobody ever called Josh out for not warning them that they were going to see a suicide ritual. He clearly knew what it was when Pelle mentioned it, and then just played coy about what it was. Even as the emotionally distant academic, it seems like he would’ve told the girl who recently lost her family in a horrific murder-suicide that she might want to sit this one out.

  24. JeffG: I agree that the jump-scare approach is pretty hollow 90% of the time unless a true craftsman really elevates it, but honestly, I think the slow burn has become just as mechanical and empty most of the time. I don’t think it takes a lot of talent to generate discomfort if that’s all you’re interested in. Just employ a static camera to drag scenes out longer than you have to and put a drone on the soundtrack. If you’re legitimately interested in what’s happening, that can be suspenseful. If you’re not, it’s just waiting. It’s like what Buzzfeed Aldrin just said: Most of these movies, I know exactly where they’re going, so I get nothing out of the movie taking its sweet time to get there. Then when the movie’s over, I don’t remember the scant moments of unsatisfactory payoff: I remember the hours of tedium preceding them. I don’t like the majority of movies that employ this approach simply because they don’t work on me anymore. The slow burn just burns me out long long before the fuse gets anywhere near the dynamite, so I’m long checked out before it goes off.

    I do agree with Anthony, in that HEREDITARY was the last straw. I don’t see these kind of movies anymore. I would absolutely love to move on to the next thing as suggested, but how? The only other two horror movies out in the last several months were a mercenary remake about a killer doll and a mercenary jump-scare sequel also about a killer doll. Not a lot of options there. I stand by my current state of negativity about horror being a case of a lack of effective counter programming, not just sour grapes.

  25. This movie had a lot of laughs, especially from the Mark character. I was genuinely bummed out when he dropped out of the picture.

    I was on the movie’s wavelength for the first hour, but by the end I was really feeling the runtime. When it became clear that the conclusion was “Dani has gone native and she’s gonna break up with her dickish boyfriend in a really over the top way” I was disappointed. I didn’t find her turn all that believable or resonant. I also thought the film could pull a third act switcheroo where Christian fights back and becomes the protagonist, but instead it removed all the agency from our characters for the last half hour and it just became a death march.

    It’s interesting that Ari Aster wrote this movie in response to a breakup, and that he felt compelled to switch the genders. Would this movie work with an emotionally traumatized man and an unsupportive girlfriend? It would almost certainly be perceived as sexist, I think.

  26. And it’s not just horror that has this problem. I don’t think I’ve ever hated a movie as much as I hated DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE, and yet I feel confident that I’d have liked it if they’d cut out an hour. AN ENTIRE HOUR. Most movies have trouble fitting everything they want to do into anything approaching movie length, while this one could chop out the entire running time of DUMBO and lose nothing of value. Compared to that shit, HEREDITARY felt like CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE.

  27. Mr. Majestyk:

    100% agree. I had a long weekend off so I caught up on a bunch of movies, I went 4 days in a row. People who call Child’s Play a horror movie are pushing it. It’s a gory comedy. Anabelle, and its progeny, are basically trying to be like cinematic roller coaster rides. There is no dread, no discomfort, just a series of images one after the other that are an attempt to startle you and then make you giggle and say “ooh, they got me with that one”. Hell, have you noticed that the trailers for these movies (like the Nun, that pops to mind) try to get you to jump with some loud “WHOMP” sound effect as some ghoul peeks its head out from a shower curtain or whatever.

    I do think there is a talent for building a sense of dread over time and keeping people engaged. I sure have seen some bad slow burn movies. I couldn’t stand The Witch. And the big tip of the hat I give Hereditary and Midsommar is that the lead actresses are just STELLAR. Actually, there are a lot of good performances in these movies.

    It is just a bummer that there aren’t many good horror options out there. I’m excited to see Crawl this weekend, I love a good “animal eating people” flick.

  28. I had no idea CRAWL even existed until the other day. Aja + giant gator + high concept premise – dicking around could be just what the doctor ordered.

  29. I’m curious what scenes somebody would find jaw dropping. Well I guess horror tourists would … joking.

    I don’t think this movie was a slow burn, it was just way too long. It’s like having a 20 course meal but every plate is super tiny so when you’re done you’re still empty. And I read that there is going to be a two hour and 45 minute cut of the movie on DVD and the original original cut was like over 3 hours. That’s insane.

  30. Anthony Bradley

    July 9th, 2019 at 10:22 am

    I suppose it depends on what theaters you live near, as far as options go. But if I went to mainstream theater chains for my current genre needs, I’d be pretty sour about the state of movies in general, because I AM NOT OR NEVER WILL BE THEIR TARGET AUDIENCE. Sure, it sucks that the films I read about from film festivals aren’t ever going to grace the AMC near me, or that they don’t really cater to my needs, but it’s up to me to put my hand up like the Drake meme and search for the thing that makes MeDrake smile.

    While I prefer the big screen, Action, Horror, Sci-Fi are better served by streaming services, where I don’t have to wait for pop cycles to pass–I can dip into a new (for the US) Korean horror film, or Indonesian fight flick.

    Instead of watching Annabelle, I can watch Knife+Heart, yet another underseen queer horror film. Which might then lead me to the excellent Stranger by the Lake. Who cares if it’s a few years old? It’s new to me.

    I don’t wanna watch Stranger Things, so I’m gonna try out a UK flick I didn’t hear about, instead of waiting for bad reviews to sink the Funko favorite until I get a new season of the Wire, where Prez FINALLY gets a pay raise.

    I will never live to see all the films I want to, and there will ALWAYS BE MORE. I’ve been trying to catch up my whole life, and I still haven’t seen Sunset Boulevard.

    Life is too fuckin short. Back when I was suicidal, I’d keep myself from the edge by telling myself I’d never get to see _____’s new film if I left. I’m okay these days, but movies are still as important to me. A disappointing film is arguably a waste of time, and it’s probably good to send out a warning call, but I’ll never understand gang-piling onto “hipster” food/films/music/coffee/bookshelves/pets/genitalia/weed flavors as a reason to hate something. Cool, we get it. Wait, how is this productive again, and how does fandom work these days?

    I’m going to go watch Robocop 2 again. That foul-mouthed kid cracks me up. I might go watch the new Spooderman too–ya know, the one created by that Disco-fad-loving Stan Lee, what with his chest hair and gold chains. Kids these days, I tell ya.

  31. Sincere question: wouldn’t DePalma’s CARRIE be “slow burn” and “hipster horror” if A24 could somehow magically release it today? It’s a whole hell of alot more buildup to a preordained event than this is. I would say the same for THE SHINING but of course many of these movies are directly inspired by its style. And of course I don’t believe these new movies are as good as those old ones. But I do think people are responding to them differently because they’re new.

    To me, any movie year that has both US and MIDSOMMAR is not a write off. I bet there’s something else out there Majestyk would like, but I’m not caught up. I enjoyed THE PERFECTION (only on Netflix I think) but didn’t review it because I didn’t know how to discuss what I liked about it without spoiling some surprises (it’s not even clear at first what type of movie it’s going to be, and I love that experience). I’ve heard varying types of good things about KNIFE + HEART, MA and LEPRECHAUN RETURNS. I’m excited for the new Aja, and SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK looks good. I’m curious about THE LIGHTHOUSE, but you can sit that one out.

  32. Anthony Bradley

    July 9th, 2019 at 11:24 am

    Majestyk please check out Loqueesha, on Amazon Prime. I hear it’s reaaaally good ;)

  33. I’ve seen a dozen horror movies I didn’t hate this year. Not one of them in the theater. Literally not one other human being I’ve spoken to has seen any of them. So sure, if I just want to consume product in a vacuum and forget about it, I can do that. The options are available. But if I would like to engage with the culture at large about horror, then it’s A24 and A24-esque movies or nothing. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are the only new horror movies anybody ever has in common with anybody else these days, so they dominate and ultimately poison the discussion. So what am I supposed to do? Not talk about my favorite genre anymore? What for? So somebody else doesn’t have to entertain the notion that taste is subjective? I don’t recall anybody else extending me that courtesy back when I was enjoying the torture porn cycle and people came out of the woodwork to tell me that I was a degenerate reprobate because I like seeing fake blood.

  34. Anthony: Thanks for the recommendation. Sorry if I’m coming off hostile. There are only so many topics I bother engaging with humanity about, and horror is right up there at the top of that short list, so when someone suggests that maybe I should stop doing that, what I hear is “You were right all along, Majestyk: People just aren’t worth talking to.” That’s gotta be the absolute worst thought for a depressive hermit like myself to have so I’m just going to say that I believe my negativity probably adds as much to the conversation as your positivity, and certainly more than indifference.

    But I do have to apologize, because I couldn’t even get halfway through the plot summary of LOQUEESHA. Still, I probably gave it more of a chance than THE PERFECTION, which made me stop reading the synopsis after four words (“When troubled music prodigy…”).

    I’m just not made for these times, you guys.

  35. The Shining would 100% be called “slow burn” if it came out today.

    Carrie may be a bit short (only an hour 40 minutes) but I guess the same deal. The new Pet Semetary did nothing for me. The IT remake was interesting, I suppose.

    I see lots of horror movies, I will watch just about anything that comes out on Netflix, Amazon or gets a decent review on Bloody Disgusting. But so many of them go in my head and out of it the second they are over, I cannot even tell you. I think I saw Revenge in the last calendar year, and that one really sticks in my head.

    I have to say Scary Stories looks really impressive. The Perfection is well worth a look. Bird Box was kind of a mess, but it certainly kept me watching (if we are on the subject of Netflix movies). Scratching my head trying to think of what horror flicks I have seen lately. The Apostle on Netflix was pretty nutty. I liked Haunting of Hill House (not a movie, I know) as well.

  36. I have kinda stopped watching horror in the last 10 years. I watch a few, but I prefer more fun horror. I still got A Quiet Place, Hereditary and Suspiria waiting on me. I did watch The Perfection and enjoy, there is something Japanese over it. Reminds me of the early 00’s horror meets David Lynch.

    I do really look forward to Ready or Not and Crawl. Ready or Not looks like a fun horror film in the vein of You’re Next. I did also get the blu-ray of Hellfest and I really love slasher films. But I haven’t really watched one of the teen slashers in a while (maybe not in ten years since My Bloody Valentine and the Friday the 13th remake, this reminds me I need to see the new Halloween, I guess I can wait until Halloween).

  37. I think in these comments there’s been a lot of overestimating just how omnipresent these A24/slowburn/”hipster” (ugh, stupid word) horror movies actually are. They’re certainly big in the horror community and they probably have enough similarities that you could argue that they constitute a movement, but after US, the biggest horror movie of this year was ESCAPE ROOM (which I thought was good, dumb fun), followed closely by LA LLORONA and PET SEMETARY. The Waniverse movies are bigger. Stephen King movies are bigger. Even calling these type of movies “A24 horror movies” isn’t quite accurate – the other two horror movies released by A24 this year have been Climax and The Hole and the Ground, neither of which I’ve seen yet, but from what I know, don’t quite fit into this characterization. To act like these are the only kind of horror movies being made right now is just crazy. I’d actually say that right now the horror genre is as strong and diverse in both tone and type as it’s ever been. Of course everybody doesn’t have to like everything, but if you can’t find something you like you’re not looking hard enough.

  38. You won’t watch it because she plays an instrument?

  39. Vern: Honestly, I was kind of already out by “troubled.”

  40. Mr M, I don’t know if you’ll like it but The Perfection is rarely boring. I actually think if it were a French or Korean film, people would be talking up how brilliant it was. As it is it’s a pretty good one I think.

    Somehow I’ve only watched 19 horror and only a few were from this year.

    Oh and a good example of an A24 style slow burn I did like a lot was a film called Gnaw. It’s from a few years ago.

  41. Does the new Rob Zombie movie coming out move the needle for anyone? I’m not a huge fan of his films, but I can’t deny he certainly has a passion for the genre, and he definitely isn’t making these movies as a cash grab (at least it doesn’t appear to be the case).

  42. Good initial buzz for Crawl! But review embargo is still up.

    Crawl reactions say it's a nail-biting, ferocious summer creature-feature

    Check out the first reactions to the alligator horror flick, Crawl!

  43. I usually enjoy Zombie’s movie at least a little, but his new one DOES seem like a cashgrab to me. He had a bunch of projects stuck in development hell and then returned instead to a sequel of the one of his movies that everybody liked, even if he said for years that he won’t make one. Not saying it will instantly suck, but I’m not as excited as I should.

  44. I think this is some kind of commentary on Sweden or Midsommar or maybe both? In any case, this is normal behavior for Swedes:

    Niccole Thurman on Twitter

    “Midsommar (2019) https://t.co/VOTauf78DC”

  45. Oh yeah! I actually liked The Perfection. That was a movie where I thought I knew where it was going and then took a pretty sharp right turn. I’d recommend it.

    Part of my issue with these A24 horror films is not that they’re everywhere, but that they’re treated like prestige films. James Wan can pump out a hundred films a year but the second a “horror” director hires a cinematographer who knows what they’re doing and doesn’t put a monster on the poster, that film is now comparable to The Exorcist and The Shining. Horror is still the ugly stepchild of film and while I know that, it still irks me that me that mainstream outlets will usually only sniff at a horror movie if it’s essentially 99.9% a drama. Get Out was terrific and one of the more recent rare exceptions to that.

  46. Sorry for being so dismissive yesterday, you guys. I read a little more on THE PERFECTION and it sounds like if i can make it through the first half it’ll be something worth seeing. I realize the available plot synopses are attempting to preserve the twists and turns, but they make the film sound utterly dull. I have a kneejerk reaction to any horror movie that uses the tired old “Still recovering from Generic Tragedy, Troubled Character moves to Spooky Location, only to find that Sinister Forces have forced him/her to confront a Dark Secret” setup. These movies tend to start with a desaturated helicopter shot of a nondescript car on winding woodsy roads, symbolizing a tentative fresh start, while a mournful but ominous piano score tinkles away underneath. I’ve seen this movie a hundred times—minimum—and I never want to see it again, though occasionally I’m forced to due to its omnipresence. Luckily, some of the negative reviews of THE PERFECTION made it sound a LOT more bearable than the positive ones did, and the vague descriptions of the supposedly ultra-trashy finale have me curious, so I’ll check it out.

    Bonus: Standard 90-minute running time like Mother Nature intended. It’s amazing how much less more has become these days. I’m much more excited about a horror movie that gets in and out at 80 minutes or less than I am some dolorous epic that takes twice as long to get to the same place. Whatever happened to leaving them wanting more?

  47. I’m a big fan of the A24-style but this one really didn’t work for me. I wouldn’t say I was bored; I don’t regret spending 2 1/2 hours or whatever on the movie, but it wasn’t scary, it was less funny than I had expected from what I had been told, and most of the movie consisted of waiting for things we knew were going to happen to happen, none of which I would say were independently compelling? I also thought the shift from the cult just doing their normal cult stuff and making faces at the outsiders for not being into it to the cult being actively malicious wasn’t… I don’t know, a good idea at all? I’d have preferred one or the other (ideally the former, we’ve all seen folk horror before.) I think the New Yorker review hit it on the head with the characters. I wasn’t invested in any of them except, of all people, Christen at the end. A character having a really bad time for 30 minutes is generally who horror wants you to care about and the movie sold it with him much better than it ever did with Dani.

    My favorite part of the movie was the bit with the bingo machine (‘step right up’) and that’s the sort of tone I would have prefered the movie lean into.

    It was nice to see how full my theater was last night, though. Glad to see an A24 movie fill seats after the opening weekend. The sex scene was easily one of the weirder things I’ve seen on the big screen for a long time and I do appreciate weird shit being made.

  48. In the past I’ve been the big defender of modern horror but this year has been pretty slim pickings. I, too, am pinning all my hopes on Crawl being the giant alligator movie of my dreams.

    I can’t wait for them to justify a basement in Florida

  49. The Monster is a nifty little Monster/Horror movie that comes in at 90 minutes and I didn’t realize was an A24 movie. It is on Netflix.

    When I looked it up, Autopsy of Jane Doe popped up as well. Also 90 minutes and, I thought, a much better horror movie. I have to check, but I haven’t seen it mentioned here.

    The Ritual is another Netflix 90 minute flick that I felt was also worth watching.

  50. AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE is another one I really liked but didn’t know how to write a review of without spoiling things or boring myself to death. That’s one reason I have hopes for SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. Interesting that that’s what the director of TROLLHUNTER went on to.

  51. Inspector Hammer Boudreaux

    July 10th, 2019 at 9:45 am

    The single thing that impressed me most about this film I haven’t seen mentioned here or anywhere else, so I’ll bring it up. Usually when movies want you to represent the effects of hallucingens they resort to introducing weird and concrete imagery. For some reason the examples I wanna give are from the Simpsons, the sequences brought on by the Guatemalan insanity peppers and Lisa drinking the water in the ride at Duff Gardens. The means are essentially metaphorical, like you’ll meet a coyote that talks with the voice of Johnny Cash or see strange threatening Munchkins singing at you. Anybody who’s seen that crap did way more or better drugs that I have. It’s a valid approach and I like it, it represents the weird head-space you go into and the strangeness of the thoughts you find there.

    By way of analogy, think of how old timey movies illustrate a drunk: with a montage of happy backslapping revelers, foamy beers sliding down a bar, maybe a looming cop slapping his nightstick. It’s not what being drunk is like, it’s an expression of how it feels looking back the next day.

    In MIDSOMMAR, however, the strange bending merging slithering trees, the way everything seems to emit waves, the breathing pulsing flowers in the crown-halo at the end… I’ve experienced these exact hallucinations many times. Dude nails exactly a big part of what tripping is like on a purely visual level. That alone is a major artistic achievement in my mind.

    For as much as I have some minor regrets that my first comment on outlawvern.com sees me sounding like Captain Druggonaut, I’ve been waiting to have something new to say, so yay for the day!

  52. Dani is the true villian in this movie. Change my mind lol

  53. Boudreaux – Agreed that this was a great on-screen portrayal of the experience of taking mushrooms. I was thinking about that a lot because just a few days prior some friends and I were talking about mushrooms and one of my friends was telling his wife (who was the only person who had never tried them) that it was just like the scene in Tenacious D where you take mushrooms and you see Bigfoot and go tubing down a strawberry river, while the rest of us were telling her not to listen to him because he’s an idiot. Midsommar was much more accurate, but still probably not the greatest way to illustrate to a nervous newbie what shrooms are like.

  54. Welcome, Inspector. I really appreciated that too, despite being a non-drug-person. It’s subtle enough that for a bit I thought it was just the one flower on the right side of her head that seemed to be breathing.

    Sternshein – There are no perfect people in this one. But if you don’t relate to and empathize with the protagonist (at least for a while) obviously you’re not gonna like this particular movie.

  55. I liked this one. Less than Hereditary, but it’s an interesting comparison piece. This one is way more procedural about showing everything in detail and depicting this cult’s practices.

    My reaction might’ve been unique. There’s some great stuff in the back half—the out there sex scene—but from about when Josh goes out to take pictures he’s not supposed to, I wasn’t as gripped by the movie as I was before. Maybe because things played out sorta how I’d expect but I didn’t think we got a lot of new character depth within that time.

    I’m sure Connie’s demise or showing what happened to her was a deleted scene, but I wonder why Asister cut it?

  56. I was kinda of making a joke.

    Also, do they not have Crawlspaces in Florida because I kind of assume the title is crawl is in reference to the crawlspace that clearly is in the trailer.

  57. Anthony Bradley

    July 10th, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Majestyk:

    “But if I would like to engage with the culture at large about horror, then it’s A24 and A24-esque movies or nothing. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are the only new horror movies anybody ever has in common with anybody else these days, so they dominate and ultimately poison the discussion.”

    Agree with you there. I think many people rush to a thing they know will be polarizing, so they can state their points but learn nothing from it.

    I hope I didn’t come off as “no naysaying ever.” Obvi your opinion matters, and has worth. I’m fine with subjective, it’s just that I like to follow those thoughts to a reason I hadn’t considered behind them, but many commentators don’t do that. They just spit on a thing and walk off.

    Tbh I’ve always enjoyed your opinion, and in the early days I watched a lot of films based on your recommendations from Vern’s comment section. I don’t know you at all, but your words had an effect on my life thru art…so maybe I take such discussions to heart too much, but I think the language of discussion is important.

    Maybe I think about this shit too often, I don’t know. Either way, I’m sorry about Loqueesha.

  58. Stern: I 100% agree about Dani. I don’t even see the cult members as being that evil, they were just doing what they believed in. I think the asshole roommate who talked all of them into going saw that Dani would slip right in line. He mentions to her when they find out she is coming on the trip that he is glad she is coming, and I think this is because he knows she has no family, she is female, and she will have no problem with all of her loser friends being sacrificed. He is clearly the ONLY one glad she is coming, including her boyfriend. I’m exaggerating a tad, obviously there are some pretty mean fuckers in that cult. But they were raised to do what they do. Dani, on the other hand, chose to do what she did.

    Vern, only reason I wished you would have reviewed Autopsy of Jane Doe is because I feel like I could go on for an hour about how astonishing the girl who plays Jane Doe is. Obviously, its a Weekend at Bernie’s type performance. She is just playing dead. But the way her body is moved, manhandled, poked, prodded with not even the slightest reaction is truly miraculous. I had a hard time following the movie because I was so amazed at how an actress could play that part.

  59. I’m sorry about LOQUEESHA too. I’m just really not in the mood for “edgy” humor right now, especially concerning racial themes. I haven’t even made myself watch SORRY TO BOTHER YOU yet so I would feel like a real heel if I prioritized the race-swapped version.

    And I agree about rushing to see movies you know you’ll hate just so you can drop a hot take. I want to assure you I don’t do that. Every time I see a movie, it’s because I hope I’ll like it. When I don’t think I’ll like a movie (like this one) I just don’t see it. But since I drop my hot takes whether I see the movie or not, I suppose that’s cold comfort.

    Thanks for the kind words, man. I hope you stick around and comment more.

  60. Anthony Bradley

    July 10th, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Jic, Loqueesha is dogshit, and I feel comfortable saying that. I forget that sarcasm doesn’t always translate. Ffs, please don’t watch it, you guys. Do read Nathan Rabin’s article on it though. It’s 2019 Soul man, but somehow more racist and ignorant.

  61. @JeffG: Just doing what they believed in? Oh boy. So were the…Maoists (not gonna lose this point bcs of internet debate rules).

    Imo, Pelle is so telegraphed that all of his courting stuff has a darkly hilarious tone. The overly nice guy who acts a tour guide but has other motives is a giant and well-worn horror cliche. Perhaps to a lesser degree but still a well worn cliche fits Dani: the orphan, who is struggling with recently losing her family, discovering a new family. I think I was looking for something extra, weird, or wild to come with that, which would’ve put this movie more over the top, but it didn’t really come. However I thought a lot of the filmmaking of the controlled shots and trippy visuals along with the comedy was quite strong. If those didn’t resonant as much with others, then I can see why people would be down on it—especially when many viewers seem obsessed about how likeable characters are. Incidentally, how unlikeable the Ph.D students mostly are I think/hope explains how many people inexplicably sympathize with the cult.

    FWIW, I liked autopsy of Jane doe quite a bit too. And it’s got a great Brian Cox performance. I’d recommend it to everyone who doesn’t like “a24 horror” but otherwise likes horror.

  62. CARRIE was 98 minutes.

    This movie isn’t a slow burn. But it’s a movie where 4-6 lines of the script likely became a 10 minute sequence part of a scene.

  63. Am I the only one who wonders what would have happened if the guests were all respectful of their customs? I don’t think these people were brought in specifically to be sacrificed as terrible looking dolls in a fire. Everybody who died only did after doing something considered disrespectful. Or what if Dani lost her balance in the dance contest and tripped? No way the guy from the cult could have possible known that Dani would have great balance. Also, why would they have wasted their time teaching Chidi of they planned on murdering him? How would they have known he would sneak into the hut that night becsuse they looked real prepared with the leatherface routine.? Also, how dumb did the inbred look? He just looked like allergic to a bee sting.

  64. Sternshein, you’re just going to ignore Connie and Simon’s death? It’s somewhat amazing how much people are ignoring Pelle.

    And I think it’s fair game to wonder how on the level that dance contest was.

  65. BrianB:

    I was kind of exaggerating, of course the cult people are horrible. But I think this movie was going for a similar “message” to Hostel. Showing us these ugly Americans who just want to get fucked up, literally piss on their belief system (the dead tree), ignore their rules (photograph their book), etc.

    Sternshien, I like the thought that maybe these folks didn’t have their fate set in stone when they came there. That if they would have been respectful and done what they were told, maybe they would have made it. While they young engaged couple didn’t do anything wrong, they also did kind of shit on their ceremony by freaking out and storming out.

    I like that the movie doesn’t give you all the answers. But the Cult still would have had to find the 5 people to sacrifice, and not sure if they were going to kill their own. 9 people needed to die, the two who jumped, the two who brought the tourists (I think), 4 others, and 1 of the choosing of the pageant queen, or whatever that title was.

    There were a lot of moments where the stupidity of the tourists almost lost me. Like when the friendly cult guy tells the one girl that her fiancé took a ride to the bus station without telling anyone. At some point, you want all these people to just pack up and take the long hike to the place where they first shroomed when they arrived. Again, it reminded me of Hostel, when they are texting pictures of the first victim’s severed head and telling his friends he met a girl and is jaunting around Europe. But horror movies do that stuff.

    I think there was a subtle hint that these kids were being drugged and becoming lethargic zombies throughout their stay. Maybe I am seeing something that isn’t there. Obviously the kids were intentionally doing some drugs (Im assuming the one kid was hitting his weed pen, and the main girl was taking ambien every night), but as the movie goes on, they appear to be half asleep every time they commune at the dinner tables. In one scene, where the boyfriend finds the pubic hair in his food, he has a different color drink than everyone else. I was wondering if this was a head’s up that they are all being slipped drugs. After several days, they all look like they are punch drunk, and obviously our lead girl is having these bizarre dreams (the first one where all her friends are driving away during the night I thought was a cool moment BTW).

    I’m beginning to think I gave this movie way more thought than it merits, but I guess that is some measure of praise.

  66. JeffG – It is very convenient that there were just enough outsiders to complete the ritual and add one new recruit. If we want to be very generous with the hand-waving, maybe there was a subtle element of the supernatural and the gods provided? I dunno, most likely it was just semi-lazy screenwriting convenience, but that’s probably how the Harga would explain it.

    I totally think they were keeping them imbalanced and might have been drugging them even more than was shown. There was also the near-constant sunlight and the fact that they made them sleep in the communal room with the baby who cried all night – disrupting sleep patterns is a classic way cults keep people off-kilter.

    As for the different colored drink, that was period blood for the “love spell” as we saw on the tapestry early on.

  67. JeffG: I absolutely agree with that assessment. There’s even a line like “barge in and assert yourself that’s what Americans do” that Pelle pointedly delivers. There’s a contrast between the competitive and self centered students and the very little individuality of the commune.

    It’s possible things might have gone somewhat differently, and more of the tourists would’ve lived (for instance if Christian was less of a dick maybe he would’ve been assimilated vs totally drugged up, clapped at and eligible for the sacrifice ritual.) But there sure was a lot of violence and foreshadowing to all those drawings on their walls and clothes, so I’m pretty skeptical—plus as I said, Pelle with that glint in his eye is almost a mustache twirling villain and it’s only because Christian is so wrong for Dani that we are sympathetic to him, although she senses that their connection is truly that deep.

    What’s everyone’s take on the mimicking that the cult members do? Im not sure if the movie is anything but ambiguous on it—on the one hand, it seems to provide comfort to the suffering. On the other hand, isn’t that comfort ultimately a hollow gesture that does nothing really to address how much of the time people are grieving and suffering because of the cult members own actions? I think that final scene where everyone outside mimics the burning screams is what drove that latter interpretation more home to me.

  68. Isn’t truly that deep*

    I think my issue with the final act is that Dani seems like an empty vessel for it. How much do we really know about her? It’s mostly all through dynamics with other characters and through her suffering and hallucinations. It’s weird how if the movie is about grief, dealing with grief, and then becoming a stronger self in the wake of it that it seems like the movie puts on that the actress to try and convey who she is and becomes, whereas who Christian is and why he possibly “deserves” what happens to him (not something I’d agree with but only because its disproportionate ) is more defined.

  69. Brian, I think it’s supposed to show that they are with her in her grief. With that said, everytime the over the top crying and screaming happened and they all joined in, I thougt that shit was hilarious. I think when it comes to the comedy in this movie, I wonder what was intentional and what was not.

    I’m not saying people don’t cry like that when a loved one dies but the way Florence Pugh did it was kind of hilarious to me.

  70. I started actively loving this movie when Pelle is asked what happens to the elders once they hit the age of 72? He jokingly makes a death sign or says we kill them, I can’t quite remember but it was hilarious! Also when Simon passes by the caged bear and says, “There’s a bear in a cage, are we going to talk about this?!” and Pelle’s response is, “Yah, it’s a bear” and shrugs it off. I love that there is a massive pay off to this little throwaway scene!

  71. I also thought it was hilarious—the sex one especially.

    And yes, I think that’s the intention. It’s another version of the I’m an orphan too! bonding attempt. But the final time they all do it, mimicking the cries and squirms of the people being burned alive, is what I found interesting because what comfort is their behavior to those people burning alive at the time really? And the cult members going into hysterics are the architects of those people’s horrible deaths and complicit for letting it happen.

    I think almost all the humor is intentional. What is more dark comedy than Dani saying that it’s her fault that Christian didn’t remember her birthday?

  72. I don’t know, guys. For the first 30-minutes I was ready to praise this, but it just devolved (though more slowly and with artier window dressing) into one of those Eli Roth movies about how you should never visit places.

    What I’m actually tired of in horror, and maybe it’s more pronounced now that it’s playing out in films that are positioned and received as respectable and highbrow, is essentially a thesis statement of “bad shit happens – the end.” That’s partly just my preference for horror that’s about survivalism and confronting dark truths, but I always find this equation of hopelessness with profundity childish. And some of my favourite movies ever are CARRIE, TEXAS CHAIN SAW, and THE WICKER MAN, which are very cynical films, but I feel there’s some deeper levels of interest there than what we get in MIDSOMMAR, especially after the superb first act had my hopes up.

  73. I should add that Florence Pugh is a superb actor in this.

  74. Have not seen it. The thing that breaks it for me from the trailer is that a typical Swedish Midsommar is never sunny, but completely rainsoaked and chilly. Also making a horror movie about the most depressing Swedish holiday is funny enough. I can seehow it can be appreciated as pagan heresy. But it is so laughable as the lyrics to thedances are so embarrassingly stupid that nobody dances around the pole anymore. We usually just build a pole out of sheer traditoon, leave it there, and ge5 shitfaced after the onligatory sill och potatis.

  75. Funnily enough, there is a Swedish village on the japanese island of Hokkaido in where japans celebrate the Midsommar. Look up Sweden Hills Hokkaido. That is some pure Twilight Zone shit.

    https://swedesinthestates.com/sweden-hills-the-swedish-looking-village-in-japan/

  76. Also, pegsy. I have sent a friend request on facebook to the Per Saetre I think is you.

  77. https://bloody-disgusting.com/movie/3572257/midsommar-originally-received-nc-17-extended-cut-way/

    In case you were wishing for a version that was 30 minutes longer…………

  78. Saw Crawl tonight. It is pretty much 100% what you think it is. It is probably about as much the opposite of Midsommar as you can get. Tons of fun, really well done, lots of good tension. And Lordy its short.

    And BTW there aren’t any basements in Florida, but there are CRAWL spaces. Hence the title.

  79. Thanks for confirming what I thought earlier and I need this in my life.

  80. BrianB: I took the mimicking thing as a satire of “thoughts and prayers” as defensive avoidance of complicity in avoidable tragedy, suggesting (as with the “treatment of the elderly” bit), that we Americans have unhealthy social rituals of our own. In this case they are very similar: the culture “sacrifices” some members, especially outsiders, in the name of protection (guns, immigration) or good fortune (insert fiscal policy of choice) and then displays performative empathy in lieu of accountability. Just don’t steal my thesis, bro!

  81. I think this is a beautifully unnerving film. There are scary films, and then there is true horror in the sense of being horrific in a way that gets under your skin, viscerally, psychologically, even spiritually. That’s what a good horror film can do. Unsettle you to your core, stay with you, traumatize you, and leave you pondering deep things, like the nature of evil, despair, freedom, meaning, love, friendship, culture, spirituality.

    I will now get into spoilers.

    The strongest theme I detected here was the contrast between modern Western egocentric sub/urban alienation and premodern religio-spiritual communitarianism. Dani quests for family and connection and experiences continual disappointment and betrayal. She experiences all the freedom, and with it all of the alienation and fragmentation, of the modern sub/urban West. Neither Christian nor either of his American friends are connected to or motivated by anything deeper than ambition or hedonistic gratification, with Christian’s two friends reflecting the two sides to his personality, and Christian aimlessly drifting between the two poles while trying utterly half-assedly to be a decent-guy boyfriend. Pretty much every “good boyfriend” thing he says to Dani rings insincere. In this primal, ancient, rural community, she experiences the unifying power of a common meta-narrative and rhythm of life. She lost her family and found a new one that could “hold” her as Pelle rightly suspected.

    Nevermind that in doing so she is trading the diversity and self-determination we associate with modern society for a fundamentally premodern ethnically and ideologically homogeneous pagan cult. Her individuality is swallowed up in the group identity and its beliefs, traditions, and rhythms, which are bigger than her and demand her obedience. I think the film asks good questions about the dangers of freedom and of groupthink and about the nature of meaning and happiness. Great stuff. Horrifying, wrenching, iconic, beautifully composed, fascinating, grueling stuff.

  82. How did this movie traumatize you?

  83. The stuff with the mallets and the cliff jumping and the immolation and the ritualistic suicide and murder and the use of psychological and drug-induced coercion. The religiously inspired dehumanization and murder of people and the sense of being trapped and forsaken. I found it upsetting and horrific.

  84. What I find particularly compelling and harrowing about “folk horror” (and, to a lesser extent, things like HOSTEL) is the notion of a kind of conspiratorial or communitarian evil where one has wandered or been lured away from civilization and the rule of law and is now essentially prey, with the added layer that there is an organized conspiracy of perpetrators who all feel perfectly justified and okay with what they are doing or even that is approved or required by religion. In the case of HOSTEL, there is this Herbert Spencer laissez faire sociopathic capitalist religious justification that people who are wealthy enough to do something and desperate or marginal enough to allow something to be done to them (like the Epstein thing we’re hearing about now). In the case of CHAINSAW or HILLS HAVE EYES, it’s this wolfpack inbred family that “others” and completely dehumanizes anyone who is not a part of their pack. For the religious folk horror of this (or probably, MARTYRS, which I have not seen), there’s the additional notion that these are not animalistic savages or greedy capitalists, but that they seem like an enlightened, articulate, and generally loving and harmonious group. There is something far more disturbing and insidious about a group of people who subscribe to a radically different worldview that allows them to view people outside their group or operation as disposable. When you add that social or groupthink element and the horror of being the sacrificial lamb surrounded by people under the sway of an alien and murderous ideology, I think it’s far more powerful than “creepy ghost” or “individual motiveless serial killer/slasher.”

    It also takes me to very weird places, like thinking about animal rights and animal slaughter and slavery and even the mass detentions of human beings now and in the past. How we turn a blind eye or normalize practices that films like this in some sense touch on at a metaphorical level. What makes it horrific is it taps into the terrifying potential of a human collective that comes to view certain individuals or people groups (or animal species) as expendable or even regarding the internment or slaughter as doing God’s work in some sense. It asks you to adopt the perspective of being the one who got caught up in this situation as the victim or sacrificial lamb, where there is a dominant social structure that is perfectly fine with dehumanizing you and stripping you of choice or humanity.

  85. I guess it’s that Shirley Jackson LOTTERY or TWILIGHT ZONE “MONSTERS ON MAPLE STREET” horror — the banal social psychology of evil — that I find profoundly more upsetting and disturbing than Jason, Freddy, Michael, or Jaws any day of the week. In all of those latter cases, there is this isolated evil actor that serves as our scapegoat or boogeyman. What appeals to us about a Freddy or Dracula or Jaws is that he is a localized, self-contained “baddie.” He is a deviant, alien, unambiguously evil “other” who invades from outside or who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing inside. With this other type of horror, the baddie is the dominant group, and the guiding force of evil is the group’s sense of identity and need to enact and preserved that identity–to reaffirm its cherished truths and sacred cows rituals, which both transcend and guide the behavior of the individuals in the group in an almost hive mind kind of way.

    Instead of a band of generally sane and “normal” (if quirky and not uniformly likable) folks all being attacked by a clearly isolated evil other (like Crispin Glover, Corey Feldman, et al. being stalked by Jason), we have a minority of generally sane and “normal” (if quirky and not uniformly likable) folks enveloped in a conspiratorial social group evil that is no more supernatural than human social psychology — the desire to belong to a herd, to have meaning, to have a sense of control, to have an identity and a role or value within the herd, to preserve or restore one’s way of life, to appease the gods, to grow and accumulate wealth. That is terrifying and its results are horrifying.

  86. And here I thought folk horror was just where white people wear stand around in fields wearing rabbit masks.

  87. That’s one impoverished and superficial way to look at it for sure.

  88. I’m just busting your balls. I actually appreciate the themes you’re talking about. It’s just the style of the subgenre in its current form that I don’t care for.

  89. But you gotta admit the rabbit mask thing is pretty played out at this point.

  90. Lol, figured as much.

    Which all ones do they do the rabbits in? WICKER MAN, right? What else? DONNIE DARKO and INLAND EMPIRE both have rabbit things going on.

  91. Scary rabbits are the new scary clowns as far as I’m concerned. Off the top of my head, I know there was one in YOU’RE NEXT, PET SEMATARY, JACKALS, probably APOSTLE, almost certainly at least one of the PURGES, probably more that I’m forgetting. I could have sworn there was one in the trailer for this very film we’re ostensibly commenting on but maybe it was just implied.

  92. Also, US and THE FAVOURITE use rabbit imagery and Ariana Grande dressed as a rabbit a couple albums ago.

  93. Midsommar was like American Pie + The Wicker Man, as produced by A24.

    Also I think a big reason this and Hereditary end up not working for me is because it’s so clear where the plot is going that you’re just waiting for the inevitable. There’s a handful of distinguished or inspired moments that hint that you’re going to get more than what’s ultimately delivered, which makes these movies frustrating. Those moments are a little too spread out, too. The ending for this one was especially weak, with the teen sex comedy style hijinks being the most engaging bits, overwhelming the rest. I would have liked if there was more depth given to the pagan ritual aspects, it went further than a lot of movies but still felt pretty superficial, when there’s some rich material you could mine from there. It’s definitely no “A Dark Song”. I liked the setting at least, and appreciated the shot where you see blood on the guys dick post-defloration, a detail I’ve never seen portrayed on-screen in a normal theatre.

  94. After I posted my first comment, I went ahead and did a little research, and it seemed like Aster was basically confirming my supposition that the film is in large part about Dani losing and then regaining a family. One other thing he says (it is in a Vox interview) is that it’s by design that you know the film is going in a WICKER MAN type of direction, but for him it is more about how the film gets to its destination than what that destination is. He’s not going for some Shyamalan-style twist or subversion, though, I think the journeys that Dani and Christian take are pretty unique and both quite differentiated from, e.g., the Edward Woodward journey in WICKER MAN. Each of them is bringing a very different kind of energy and set of baggage from one another and from the Woodward protagonist, and they end up in very different places. Also, although I saw broadly that it was going in a pretty grim and unremitting direction, it wasn’t at all obvious to me which of the visitors–if any–would make it out alive and to what end narratively. I could have seen either or neither Dani or Christian living or dying. With HEREDITARY, I definitely did not see where that one was going at the end until the last maybe 20 minutes if that.

    If you’re looking for non-stop carnage or set pieces, then this one’s pacing is definitely not your cup of tea.

  95. Well thanks Skani for answering my question. I was not expecting such a detailed summation of what scared you about the movie and that’s cool.

    I think one of the reasons why this movie doesn’t scare me is that I’ve not dealt with tragedy before. Nobody important to me in my family has died in a very, very long time. I’ve been in relationships before but I don’t think any of them lasted well past the expiration date.

    I actually wonder how long they were in a relationship for in this movie. They don’t live together which usually suggests that a relationship wasn’t that long. He doesn’t suggest, like a normal person would, to call the police to check up on her sister and her parents. In fact, I thought it was a bit strange that Dani didn’t do more to find out what was going on with her sister. I’ve never been in a situation where a friend or family member has reached out to me about how they might commit suicide but I guarantee you I wouldn’t just leave some text messages and then call my boyfriend. Right away I didn’t find Dani all that likable so that didn’t help much for me either.

  96. Sternshein – I think because I have gone through some terrible stuff in the last few years I appreciated the opening section in a different way than I would have before. I think you talked about it being such an over-the-top horrible thing to happen to her family, and I can see that, but to me it’s effective because it’s so much worse than what I went through. I lost my parents in drawn out, horrendous ways, but I wasn’t in my twenties when it happened, and I didn’t lose my whole family in one night. The extremeness of it hits me like “Yeah man, that’s what it *feels* like.”

    I can be, or at least used to be, turned off by movies that try too hard to, as I usually think of it, “rub your nose in the shit” of how ugly the world is. But sometimes it’s true! While my mom was bedridden I would visit her and, before the dementia got too bad, try to tell her about things going on in the world or things people she knew were up to so that her mind wouldn’t be stuck in this little room she lived in. One major thing I decided I could not tell her was that our neighbor who was at one point her best friend and my babysitter, before a falling out and moving away, had been murdered. Her and her husband were stabbed and beaten in their bed by their teenage granddaughter and her boyfriend, who sealed the room up with tape to hide the smell and lived for a while downstairs from the bodies, having friends over for parties. I hadn’t seen the family in more than 30 years, but reading about it sure haunted me for a long time. Same thing more recently when a guy in my building attacked his girlfriend and the cops kicked the door down and shot him dead. They put a video of it online. Why did I watch it? The apartment is exactly like mine. It takes a while to stop thinking okay, he was standing right here, they were right there, the body dropped here. Or to not be tempted to look up at the window to see if a light is on, if anyone still lives there.

    The closer this sort of darkness gets to me the more true it feels in movies. It makes an elaborately fucked up murder-suicide like that seem possible. For me it works because it’s just one of the colors of this movie. A big hard kick in the gut right at the beginning to show us what she’s dealing with and how out of his depth her dumb boyfriend is when it’s time to console her. And when Pelle talks to her about his parents dying I believe that because I feel a weird connection with my friends who have also lost their parents.

    There’s something kind of cathartic about seeing a character go through that right up front and then have a life after that. Even if she doesn’t deal with it in a way that I should try to learn from, in my opinion.

  97. Well said, Vern. The beginning hit me hard for similar reasons. I wrote about it in my Letterboxd review. The rest of the movie didn’t live up to it for me, but it doesn’t change that the opening captures the emptiness of family loss really vividly.

  98. Welp, guess I’ll stick to talking about martial arts movies or something.

  99. I wasn’t trying to diminish what you wrote Sternshein. It’s valid. I’m just saying this aspect of the movie hit me a certain way due to my own experiences.

  100. Ha ha, sorry if that was too much information, Sternshein. I wasn’t trying to say my response was more valid because of bad shit happening in my vicinity. I’ve just had those things in mind in connection to this movie and you inspired me to try to articulate them.

  101. Stern, I think they said that Dani and Christian were together for 4 years. I’ve lost both my parents, so, I can relate to the orphaning aspect, which must be worse when you’re younger like Dani, and the circumstances are maximum gutwrench factor. She’s had her heart ripped out, and she is kind of like a refugee who has no home or family to go back to. In her mind there’s not much to go back to, and she’s extremely vulnerable and traumatized already before even leaving.

  102. This is why I said earlier that what probably keeping me from connecting to this movie like you guys is because I have no frame of reference to hold on to.

  103. Annabelle Comes Home made $60,000,000 domestically. Midsommar made $13,000,000. Its amazing to me that movies like this even get made, honestly, and I am appreciative.

  104. Like Skani I especially liked the way this movie worked as a sort of “communitarian horror”…I also thought that aligned well with its emphasis on psychedelic mindstates and the sort of liminal state they put you in where the boundaries between you and the group you’re in are less well-defined and it’s easier to get pulled into all kinds of spontaneous “rituals” or other group behaviors that don’t seem to originate from any one member, like a bunch of birds breaking out in contagious calls or something equally primal-feeling. There’s another good review of the movie I found that highlights these aspects here:

    Hallucinatural: MIDSOMMAR

    Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception for a better yesterday.

    Sample comment: “Why it’s so seductive in Midsommar’s case is that we’re not dealing with usual Hammer Films gathering of British extras in robes cavorting and waving around goblets and bunches of grapes while Charles Grey glowers behind an altar – we’re dealing with drug effects we may already be familiar with –their abilities to bond a social group and/or weird one out along the same line–and harmony with nature, though a nature that is inscrutable in its demands – the sun and light of love they feel goes hand in hand with a clear-eyed and unflinching view of death, and a view of sex and mind-altering drugs completely free of all Christianity’s and conservative parental hysteria’s restrictions and taboos. We can’t help but feel the attraction, the druggy pull of inclusion and oneness. “

  105. I read some of that review, hypnosifl. Pretty trippy, though I could only skim. Then I got into reading the WICKER MAN (2010) review, which was really interesting.

    Also, +1 for CRAWL. Simple, lean, competent, high-tension alligatorrific fun. Good to see Barry Pepper doing his thing.

  106. I really like a lot of what A24 puts out. I’m glad there’s a studio successfully putting out interesting, cerebral horror films in theaters nationwide. I got sick of Conjuring spinoffs, Paranormal Activity clones, Saw sequels, The Ring remakes and PG-13 snooze festivals but can’t see myself ever getting enough of A24 releases. As long as they keep putting out a wide range of genre fare from a multitude of new and exciting voices, I’ll keep showing up.

  107. i genuinely can’t tell who’s being sincere and who’s just straight up trolling a motherfucker in this thread anymore.

  108. I assume your referring to me Mixalot. I’ve always been genuine in my thoughts on a movie. If your are referring to me that is a jerk thing to say.

  109. I think troll is an overused term, but the hatorade narrative around the scourge of A24/slow-burn/hipster horror is played out, whatever the flavor of that narrative one wants to serve. At a certain point, nothing new is being added to the conversation, and it feels like sustained negative energy, playing the role of sandwich board-wearing street corner prophet of true horror. There is clearly a specific voice and perspective that a guy like Aster has, and it’s not for everyone (including you, Sternshein, yes), and that’s fine. When the commentary is predictable, repetitive, and negative, it smacks of an unhealthy fixation–literally being stuck and attached to some white whale antagonist, tilting at windmills, feeding off of amplifying and/or creating negativity, goading people into defending why they like what you clearly consider to be bullshit poseur horror and then acting sore when they call it out as such. Most of the time it’s going to be far more life-giving for you and others when your energy is put into what you love, not what you hate. Otherwise, you’re entering into this weird co-dependent symbiotic-toxic relationship with the thing you claim to hate. It’s the same energy that goes into mainlining partisan news all day, just sniffing and getting all hopped up on negativity but not actually channeling that into anything positive. It’s nihilistic.

  110. Whatever. I’m allowed to hate a movie or a particular style of movie. I went into this thing with an open mind and I was really hoping it would over achieve for me. It didn’t and I expressed my opinion. I then get called a troll and told not to express my opinion. And it’s not from randoms it’s from people I’ve been talking movies with for years. I honestly feel completely unwelcomed here since expressing my feelings in this movie. It sucks.

  111. Nah, I think the troll comment was directed at Hank, whose comment sounded weirdly cliched.

  112. Sorry, I didn’t mean to get all emotional. I know you guys don’t dislike me and don’t wish for me to leave.

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