Ari Aster established himself as one of the trippiest, most batshit crazy, and brilliant horror directors with 2017's Hereditary. The spooky shocker centered around a grieving family and their ever more troubled matriarch (Toni Collette). It put Aster on the map and now he's returning this week with a new terrifying take on the genre with the sun soaked strangeness of Midsommar.
Those of you who were brave enough to see his debut outing will know that when it comes to atmosphere, tension, and gore, Aster rarely holds back. So we're here to help you decide whether or not you can face the madness with a few mild Midsommar spoilers. If you can handle these, you can probably make it through the two and a half hour runtime.
The hallucinogenic horror follows a group of young friends as they head off to rural Scandinavia for a Midsommar celebration. Though it seems like a dreamy set up, the film actually offers up a thoughtful meditation on abusive relationships, gaslighting, and the cathartic nature of emotion, whilst also still scaring us silly. Without spoiling too much this piece will look at the most disturbing and potentially upsetting moments in the movie so you can navigate whether or not this is a trip you want to go on.
How scary is Midsommar?
This is, of course, a totally subjective question, but in our opinion Midsommar is objectively pretty scary. On a general tonal level the film is more of an atmosphere piece that slowly builds up the tension to an almost unbearable pitch rather than the jump scare filled supernatural blockbusters that have been filling the theaters of late.
When it comes to the matter of moments that might be tough to watch, one of the most obviously horrifying moments comes pretty early on as Aster teases the inciting incident of the whole story that explicitly showcases the aftermath of the murder/suicide of the core protagonist's family.
Though it might not be your average horror flick, Midsommar is an unquestionably visceral film that does feature moments of brutal violence set within an unsettling and often drug-induced stylistic haze of rural Sweden. It's the sort of film that can easily trigger anxiety due to the constant hum of threat that the score and super smart direction offer up.
Something that took us by surprise were the underlying themes of emotionally abusive relationships, gaslighting, and escaping the cycle of abuse. Though they might not technically be horrifying, Aster doesn't hold back with his exploration of the toxic nature of the relationship between Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor). It adds a heavy emotional weight to the film and maybe hard to watch for some viewers, but the arc also definitely has the potential to be very cathartic for others.
Is Midsommar gory?
Though only around 15 mins of the two hour and 20 min runtime could be described as gory, there are plenty of horrifying moments that easily justify the film's R-rating and will likely make some audiences very uncomfortable.
Breaking down the moments that are most affecting starts pretty early on as the audience is shown the prolonged reveal of three dead bodies with one left in a particularly disturbing state. There's a respite from the gore and dead bodies while Aster ramps up the tension as the four friends make their way to Sweden and their inevitable fates. Once we reach the lush grassland of Hårga, we're introduced to the apparently peaceful and idyllic commune. But don't let yourself be lulled into a false sense of security by the idyllic landscape and hippyish inhabitants, as some of the film's more brutal moments are yet to come.
When it comes to brutal gore, there are three major moments. The first of which centers around the euthanasia/suicides of two of Hårga's older residents, and another showcases a mutilated dead body displayed in an explicit fashion. Then there's the devastating final act that ends with a purifying fire and a death that you'll be thinking of for days. Along with those major moments, the film also features the demises of a number of other characters, and although they aren't particularly violent or gory, they're still haunting.
Is Midsommar worth the horror?
It obviously depends on your stomach for this sort of thing, but Midsommar is an incredibly inventive, smart, and thoughtful horror film. So if you're considering watching and think you can handle the unsettling atmosphere and visceral violence then the eventual payoff could definitely be worth it.