Midsommar (2019): ‘Beneath the Folk Horror’ – A Film Review

Midsommar 2019 still


Hereditary was a great success for writer/director Ari Aster. Certainly 2018 was a great year for horror and 2019 seems to want to follow suit. Ari Aster was quick and eager, as already we have his next film Midsommar in 2019. Hereditary centred on a family drama and used an interesting spin on demonic possession to get its horror across. It hinted at psychological horror as well as ghosts, and this managed to drag out the run time, but there was, at least, still a good use of cinematography. Aspects that could very well return as part of his style in further films. This left a very classic horror style to it, going back before slashers. Midsommar draws easy comparisons to a 1973 cult classic, The Wicker Man. But are these superficial or substantial? Does Midsommar stand as a great horror film in itself?

Midsommar 2019 still


Where’s the Fear?

On appearances, Midsommar is the fear of cults and/or pagan cultures. The community rising up against you. This borrows heavily from The Wicker Man, down to quite a few visual motifs and plot points. It also borrows from mythologies not touched upon in The Wicker Man. For a contemporary feel, it also dips into drugs culture. This all builds a very effective visual language as well as an eerie and creepy atmosphere. However, Midsommar lingers when it relies too heavily on these motifs. Taking the don’t show and don’t tell approach leaves only heavy implications as to the films events. This can work and has become a staple of western cinema for a long time. Jaws popularised this approach but what Midsommar forgets is that the deaths still occur on screen. If Midsommar wanted the fear of disappearing numbers, it would’ve needed more characters. If it wanted to tell the story as it is, then more deaths would need to happen or be revealed.

Midsommar 2019 still



The Relationship at the Setting of it All

What Midsommar is actually about is relationships. In this way it is nothing like The Wicker Man. But it keeps to the unfortunate metaphor of the killer as internal problems externalised. It’s a bit of a cliché and it isn’t particularly explored but just used as a backdrop. Problems in relationships, resolved by a cult. This backdrop was perhaps meant to create an intrigue between the characters and maybe even a vulnerability for the lead character, but it doesn’t go any further than that. Most characters aren’t developed enough to progress this. Performances too wooden to create true likability but this was always going to be difficult for them – given the script. It’s almost as if Midsommar loses interest in the relationship in favour of the cult, only to suddenly remember it again later.

Midsommar 2019 still



What we’re left with is a long, visually interesting film with some basically good ideas – albeit taken from The Wicker Man. Perhaps it is in effort to bring back folk horror films. Narratively and with its characters though, Midsommar starts but plods and doesn’t go anywhere. It survives more than most horror films and creates some iconic and enduring images. The visual trope of the upside down or areal camera is most noticeable, but the truly inspirational images actually are within the mise-en-scène. Unsettling, grotesque, sexual or violent imagery makes up the film and creates its lasting impact.

Midsommar 2019 still



Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) are on rocky ground when Dani’s family dies in accident. By obligation, Christian invites her to join him and his friends on a holiday in Sweden; where Pelle (Villhelm Blomgren) introduces them to his home community.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Hereditary (d. Ari Aster USA 2018)

Jaws (d. Steven Spielberg USA 1975)

Midsommar (d. Ari Aster USA 2019)

The Wicker Man (d. Robin Hardy UK 1973)


Further Reading



Official Site

Ari Aster Interview

Cast Interview

Cinematographer Interview


Easter Eggs


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This was an analytical review of….


Midsommar (d. Ari Aster USA 2019)

Midsommar 2019 still

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