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Midsommar First Reviews: Florence Pugh Goes Full Toni Collette in Ari Aster's Gory, Surreal, Divisive Second Film

The very first set of reviews for Aster's Hereditary followup say he's avoided the sophomore slump – but his folk horror tale won't be for everyone.

by | June 19, 2019 | Comments

Last year, Ari Aster arrived on the scene with one of the most talked about feature debuts in years. He’s already back with a second movie, and apparently Hereditary was no fluke. Aster’s Midsommar (2019) 83% screened confidently on Tuesday night, without any kind of review embargo, and the gamble is paying off given the first critical reactions to the sophomore effort.

Comparisons to Aster’s introductory work are inevitable, as much as they are to other “horror” films of its kind, but the initial reviews for Midsommar highlight its unique terror and humor and a lead performance from Florence Pugh that’s potentially as praiseworthy as Toni Collette’s in Hereditary. It won’t be for everyone, but it sounds like everyone should see it anyway.

Note: these are the very first reviews for Midsommar, and we will be updating this piece as more reviews from a wide range of perspectives come through.

Here’s what critics are saying about Midsommar so far:


Has Ari Aster avoided the sophomore slump?

“Much like how Jordan Peele’s Us proved that concern for a sophomore slump was unwarranted, Aster’s latest hits. And damn does it hit hard.” – Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central

Midsommar is pretty irrefutable proof that Aster could indeed live up to the intense praise heaped on his shoulders.” – Matthew Monagle, Film School Rejects

“It’s a smoother ride than Aster’s previous film, showing growth on his part as a filmmaker and further cementing this director as a dude who can definitely be counted on to pull no punches.” – Scott Wampler, Birth.Movies.Death.

Midsommar is an impressive, albeit flawed, sophomore effort from Aster, who once again demonstrates just why he’s one of the most interesting filmmakers working today.” – Heather Wixson, Daily Dead


But is it as good as Hereditary?

“It’s cut from an entirely different cloth… while that debut feature was soaked in darkness and dread, Midsommar is a shockingly sunny and chipper freakshow.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“Whereas Hereditary faced (unfounded) complaints about its third act feeling disjoint-ed, Midsommar won’t be plagued by such criticisms.” – Trace Thurman, Consequence of Sound

“It’s a natural extension of the grim cinematic universe that spawned Hereditary.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“[It’s] never as impactful, as emotional, or as frightening as the director’s debut.” – Andrew Barker, Variety

“When it comes to delivering a cinematic gut punch and/or nerve-shredding terror, Hereditary achieves it far more confidently than Midsommar does.” – Heather Wixson, Daily Dead


Midsommar
(Photo by © A24)

Is it – like Hereditary – not for everyone?

“It will certainly be as divisive as Hereditary but there’s no denying that it will be one of the most discussed, dissected, and analyzed films of the year.” – Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central

“This film will alienate a lot of people (much like Hereditary, its audience exit polling is likely going to be abysmal).” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“Seems engineered to draw fiercely polarized reactions. In truth, it’s neither the masterpiece nor the disaster that the film’s most vocal viewers are bound to claim.” – Andrew Barker, Variety


How do we describe it?

“The horror equivalent of a destination wedding.” – John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter

“A break-up melodrama tossed in a blender with the folk horror sub-genre. Are you familiar with the folk horror sub-genre? If not, I have good news – Midsommar‘s gonna melt your brain!” – Scott Wampler, Birth.Movies.Death.

“Aster refashions The Wicker Man as a perverse breakup movie, douses Swedish mythology in Bergmanesque despair, and sets the epic collage ablaze.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

Midsommar might be the most unhealthy breakup film of all time…pair this one with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and you might have the most unnerving double-feature of the 21st century.” – Matthew Monagle, Film School Rejects



Is it scary?

“Up there with the better horror films in recent years.” – J. Hurtado, Screen Anarchy

“I would call Midsommar many things before I’d call it scary…[but] if you’re wondering whether Midsommar will give you nightmares, the answer is probably yes.” – Scott Wampler, Birth.Movies.Death.

“While the scares aren’t as overt as his previous title, Midsommar is awash with tension, every scene oozing with the trepidation of what comes next.” – Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central

“There’s an intimate spookiness…a reminder that the scariest circumstances are often the ones heading right at us.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

Midsommar seeks scares that are surreal and demented.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

“More unsettling than frightening.” – John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter

“Those looking for a jump-a-minute scarefest should look elsewhere, as Midsommar has other things on its mind. The film is never outright scary.” – Trace Thurman, Consequence of Sound


And gory?

“As opposed to Hereditary’s hushed, focused terror, Midsommar explodes with blood and gore.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

“It’s a gnarly horror movie…some of the kills are admirably nasty (gentle reminder: Ari Aster is not afraid to smash cut to a gory close-up).” – Scott Wampler, Birth.Movies.Death.

“Though viewers may be shocked by the occasional bit of self-conscious gore, any tendency toward slow-building dread is leavened by the script’s frequent ‘WTF?’ asides.” – John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter

“Every bloody wound is highlighted under the sun, offering an unnerving juxtaposition that’s gory, yet not exactly blood-soaked.” – Trace Thurman, Consequence of Sound


And… funny?

“Somehow, Aster’s deliberate and ponderous film is also really funny.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“What’s most surprising about Midsommar is also how damn funny it can be…all this humor feels perfectly natural as Aster manages to tread a very careful line where the film’s impact isn’t lost for the sake of a handful of laughs.” – Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central

Midsommar indeed works as a passable comedy in its own right.” – Matthew Monagle, Film School Rejects

“A bizarrely funny movie… in what is maybe one of the oddest sex scenes ever, Reynor displays a goofy bewilderment that can only elicit giggles.” – Esther Zuckerman, Thrillist


Midsommar
(Photo by © A24)

How does the movie look?

“A visual feast that is akin to true contemporary avant-garde cinema, like Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle.” – Richard Whittaker, Austin Chronicle

“Perhaps the first bonafide horror movie to take place exclusively in daylight…that visual sophistication provides a unifying force that often smoothes over its rougher passages.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“The oddities strewn throughout the village feel all the more ominous for being hidden in plain sight.” – Andrew Barker, Variety

“Production designer Henrik Svensson creates a stunning location…cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski captures Halsingland in all its rural majesty.” – Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central

“We should also probably take a moment to applaud the film’s costume design, which takes some memorable turns as the film goes on. The whole thing looks great.” – Scott Wampler, Birth.Movies.Death.

“Pawel Pogorzelski paints unforgettably uncomfortable images out of bright light, soft diffusion, and a palette of pastels. Midsommar looks like Easter Sunday gone mad.” – William Bibbiani, Bloody Disgusting


And how does it sound?

“Much credit for carrying the film through these rough patches should go to composer Bobby Krlic, whose inventive, eminently confident score supplies quite a lot of the emotional heavy.” – Andrew Barker, Variety

“The hamlet is brought further to life thanks to the brilliant sound design while composer Bobby Krlic’s score toes the line between folk beauty and dissonant unease.” – Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central

“The film’s inventive sound design, slyly disorienting special effects and mix of different musical styles help patch over what can be silly or forced elsewhere.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International


Does Florence Pugh give a Toni Collette-level performance?

“[Florence] Pugh is extraordinary… her performance is a fine companion piece to Toni Collette’s in Hereditary.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“This is a transformative, defining performance for [Pugh]… she absolutely delivers on every level, in every frame and in every way.” – Ryan Scott, Movieweb

“Pugh, a performer who has already been great and seems destined for more greatness, anchors the film with her devastation, her face contorting with skepticism, sorrow, and sneers.” – Esther Zuckerman, Thrillist

“A definite highlight of the film, Florence Pugh’s explosive performance as Dani is exceptional in the same way that Toni Colette’s was in Hereditary.” – J. Hurtado, Screen Anarchy

“In the third act she makes some very difficult material look very easy…make no mistake — this is Pugh’s movie.” – Scott Wampler, Birth.Movies.Death.

“Cements Florence Pugh as an award-worthy actress…[a] masterful performance, one that will holds the film together through thick and thin.” – Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central

“Florence Pugh holds the film together.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International


Midsommar
(Photo by A24)

Does anyone else stand out?

“Don’t overlook Reynor as the other cat’s-paw in the cult’s plans. He’s a counterpart to Gabriel Byrne in Hereditary.” – Richard Whittaker, Austin Chronicle

“Poulter, in particular, is frequently hilarious… Reynor shows some incredibly strong chops.” – Trace Thurman, Consequence of Sound

“As much as Midsommar defies typical horror conventions, Poulter plays the classic ‘God, I hope he dies first’” slasher-movie doofus almost too well.” – Andrew Barker, Variety

“William Jackson Harper, a talented actor, uses his knack for comedy to infuse the hysteria with some much needed dark humor.” – Jordan Riumy, World of Reel


Is the movie original enough?

“If you’ve seen any kind of folk horror, but specifically Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man, you kind of know where this is going… And that’s perfectly okay.” – J. Hurtado, Screen Anarchy

“Aster is clearly drawing on folk-horror titles like The Wicker Man for his second feature, and yet, Midsommar is entirely unique.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“Many of the film’s most shocking moments go nowhere and/or feel judiciously borrowed from other films, like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” – William Bibbiani, Bloody Disgusting

“It struggles to break much new ground beneath its carnival of brightly lit grotesqueries.” – Andrew Barker, Variety

“The folk horror iconography Aster’s playing with here isn’t new… but things do eventually get surreal in an unpredictable way.” – Scott Wampler, Birth.Movies.Death.

“Aster doesn’t always sink the biggest surprises, but he excels at twisting the knife.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire


Any criticisms?

“Intermittently abandons narrative logic in order to waylay his characters with gruesome surprises that, under close inspection, don’t make much sense.” – Tim Grierson, Screen International

“There’s something incomplete, as if Aster – a remarkable stylist and formalist – gets so mired in the de-tails that he loses sight of any bigger picture: It’s all trees, no forest.” – Richard Whittaker, Austin Chronicle

“The movie is so ham-fisted with its red flags, and so simplistic with many of its characters, that parts of the film veer into camp territory.” – William Bibbiani, Bloody Disgusting

“The film isn’t perfect. The breezy runtime does stagnate occasionally and some beats feel predictable.” – Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central

“I’ll be the first to say that Aster’s film would be even stronger with a few trimmed scenes.” – Matthew Monagle, Film School Rejects

Midsommar drags a bit as it reaches its just-about-fantastical conclusion.” – Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair


What’s the biggest surprise about the movie?

“Everything that the town represents may be monstrous, but even in its worst moments, it’s still a place you kinda want to go.” – Matthew Monagle, Film School Rejects

“Hårga is such a rich tapestry of terror, designed to envelope you in its creepy embrace, that it’s a perverse pleasure to spend time traipsing through its grass. You may even want to put on a flower crown.” – Esther Zuckerman, Thrillist


Is it one of the best movies of the year?

Midsommar is a masterful work of art that is truly unparalleled to any other horror movie I’ve seen so far in 2019.” – Heather Wixson, Daily Dead

“Masterpiece… It’s one of the year’s best films.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm


Midsommar opens July 3, 2019. 

#1

Midsommar (2019)
83%

#1
Adjusted Score: 99.399%
Critics Consensus: Ambitious, impressively crafted, and above all unsettling, Midsommar further proves writer-director Ari Aster is a horror auteur to be reckoned with.
Synopsis: Dani and Christian are a young American couple with a relationship on the brink of falling apart. But after a... [More]
Directed By: Ari Aster

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