Have you ever wanted to try LSD or other mind-altering drugs but were too afraid to go through with it? What if I told you it was possible to get the experience without any of the risk? Interested?
Cool. We can continue.
Today's film was another recommendation from a friend, albeit a different one this time, and man the two recommendations couldn't possibly be any more different if they tried.
I'll admit this one's a bit outside my wheelhouse, so I was a little hesitant going in, particularly when I saw the two-and-a-half-hours run time. Well, tourists, I hope you've cleared some time on your schedule, because we're taking a wild trip with 2019's Midsommar.
As our film opens, we find a young woman named Dani, who is in obvious distress as she's received a troubling, cryptic email from her sister. Her boyfriend, Christian, tries to reassure her and returns to socializing with his friends, who urge him to break up with Dani as their relationship has been troubled for the past year. Dani calls back, screaming, because firefighters have just discovered her parents and sister, dead by carbon monoxide poisoning in an obvious murder/suicide. Reluctant to break up with Dani due to her grief and upcoming birthday, Christian invites her along with him and his friends on a trip to visit their friend Pelle's hometown in Sweden for the summer solstice festival.
Almost immediately the Americans are unsettled by the strange life and customs of the community, called the Hårga. They find the locals to be kind and inviting, however, and do their best to acclimate. Unfortunately the idyllic charm of the Hårga is shattered when they witness an appalling and gruesome suicide ritual. Things only go downhill from there as the tourists begin to disappear one by one and tensions rise among those who remain.
Hooooooooo boy! Well... how do I put this? Midsommar felt like watching one of Alejandro Jodorowsky's wet dreams. Remember how I said it was like an acid trip without the drugs? I meant it. You'll need a keen eye to catch some of the strange and unnerving (but subtle) visual effects, so put down your phone and pay attention. Blink and you literally might miss something. This is most certainly an arthouse film, and definitely not a traditional horror film. There are no hockey masks and razor gloves to be found in the Hårga. It's far far more diabolical, let me assure you.
From the moment the tourists arrived, I knew the locals weren't your typical tree-loving, stoner hippies. My cult sense was tingling from the moment the first Swedish syllable was uttered. One of the characters references Waco, and they wouldn't be too far off. If there's one thing Midsommar does correctly and does quite well, it's establishing humans as monsters. It's often said that the best villains are those who do not believe they are evil, and while I personally disagree, the people of the Hårga do fit the bill.
Midsommar is not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. While almost completely devoid of jump scares, the film does contain gore that rivals even the Saw franchise in its grotesqueness. Considering the budget, some of the practical gore effects are quite impressive and would probably have industry greats like Tom Savini and Gregg Nicotero cheering in their seats. This movie is equal parts body horror and psychological thriller, and at times it's hard to determine which of those elements is more unsettling. Whatever you do, put the children to bed before putting this film on.
So you're probably wondering my verdict. Honestly, I'm divided. If I had to sum the movie up in just one sentence, it would be that Midsommar is the longest and weirdest breakup movie ever made. Midsommar is most definitely not my cup of tea, but I'll admit that it does what it set out to do well, especially on a budget of only 9 million dollars. It's disgusting, it's perverted, it's sinister, and above all... it's un-fucking-settling. If you have the stomach for it and find sex/death cults fascinating, or if you just like weird white people being weird white people, then give Midsommar a shot. Just don't say I didn't warn you.