Verdict: Ari Aster’s comeback horror is visually captivating yet thoroughly unsettling.

Last year, director Ari Aster horrified viewers with his acclaimed feature debut Hereditary. The award-winning film definitely left its mark on the horror genre and can be considered one of the top horror flicks of the year. That makes his return with A24’s Midsommar that much more exciting. Starring Fighting with My Family’s Florence Pugh in the lead role, his latest film is another gory horror drama with cults and explorations of grief and relationships.

What’s Midsommar About:

Young American couple Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) are on the brink of a breakup but as Dani’s grief after a family tragedy holds them together. Meanwhile, Christian and his friends Mark (Will Poulter) and Josh (William Jackson Harper) are invited to their Swedish friend Pelle’s (Vilhelm Blomgren) ancestral commune called the Hårga in Hälsingland, Sweden. The remote Swedish village will be celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime midsummer festival that only occurs every 90 years. Dani joins the reluctant boys on their trip and as the holiday begins in the eternal sunlight that the summer solstice brings, things seem to take a sinister turn. The hidebound villagers and their guests partake in the peculiar festivities that grow increasingly disturbing, unfolding a world of dark horrors in broad daylight.

What Works:

The nightmare of Midsommar lies in its calm pace as writer-director Ari Aster steadily pulls you in and then spins you around into giddying levels of gore. The acclaimed director of Hereditary goes back to his unconventional exploration of grief through horror. However, this time he takes a grander and much more macabre approach. He sets up a stark contrast as he makes the bright summer landscape and the vibrant bloom of flowers a setting for inescapable horrors. One particular scene that reveals a tradition involving a cliff acts as a warning of the savagery to follow. You know what horrors to expect next and yet it gets even more dreadful. The slow build towards the unraveling of disturbing secrets will keep you hooked, waiting to see just how far Aster can go. Even his characters seem innately aware of the nightmares to follow but also know that there’s no escape in sight. They’re flawed, they act selfishly, and their actions are utterly relatable to a point where you’d think, “That’s absurd but would I act any differently?” Stepping into those roles, the cast is entirely convincing. Florence Pugh is the star of the show as her character embraces the absurd in her moment of absolute pain and grief.

What Could’ve Been Better:

Saying Midsommar is not for the faint-hearted might be an understatement. It spirals into the morbid with increasingly horrifying visuals. It’s a heavy watch but a thrilling one at that.

Why You Should Watch:

Midsommar makes for a heady watch as Ari Aster fills the bright atmosphere of Sweden’s summer solstice with disturbingly dark imagery. The steady hum of horrors will entrance you as it builds up to an outrageous crescendo.