Ari Aster’s follow-up to the traumatizing family horror Hereditary is a lighter affair. Or at least it is for a movie which still begins with a harrowing murder-suicide. Florence Pugh stars as Dani, a girl who has lost her parents and sister in said act, and who persuades her arsehole boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) to take her with him to a Swedish village where he is headed with his Swedish friend to partake in the Midsommar celebrations. Dani’s severe grief is then enhanced with psychedelics, which are snuck into her food, creating a truly nightmarish experience for her. That’s until maybe it isn’t.
Aster’s film takes place almost entirely in bright daylight, in an idyll dressed with multicoloured flowers, which pulse in time with Dani’s troubled mind. It’s beautiful, horrific, quite funny, and has an ending to die for.
Director and screenwriter Frank Darabont went from making emotional, highly dramatic adaptations of two Stephen King prison stories (The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile) to this, a rock-‘em, sock-‘em, no-holds-barred version of King’s famed 1980 novella. As the title phenomenon blankets a small town – and, it’s implied, the rest of the world – an interdimensional rift contained within allows an unstoppable army of grotesque creatures into our reality to munch on humans and wreak havoc.
Thomas Jane, Toby Jones, and others are trapped inside a supermarket when the horror begins, and it’s there that King and Darabont focus on how everyday people would respond to such a calamity, with the rational folks on one side and the rest – led, of course, by a crazed religious fanatic – on the other. Both as a microcosm of societal collapse and an all-out monster movie, Darabont’s low-budget thriller works splendidly. The director ends the piece on an even bleaker note that King’s ambiguous original text, adding a nihilistic coda to an already chilling treatise in which one’s not sure what’s worse – the monsters on the outside or the inside.