Midsommar is a terrific film but, I think, it's being rather poorly promoted. Flicking through the movies on my cinema website I saw the poster and assumed at first it was a Swedish language remake of A Midsummer Night's Dream...
No, no, no. It's an American horror movie — though it is largely set in Sweden, with the occasional use of subtitles. Don't let that put you off. It's an extraordinary film of genuine hallucinatory power.
Midsommar is written and directed by Ari Aster, who also made Hereditary, another horror film, and a highly regarded one which I now seriously regret missing on the big screen.
The new movie tells the story of Dani (Florence Pugh), a young woman who is so clinging and needy that her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) is eagerly looking for the opportunity to dump her — being encouraged in this by his frat-boy university buddies (including the ever engaging Will Poulter).
But, in fairness, Dani has damn good reasons to be needy and clingy, as is established by a horrifying family tragedy which we witness in the first few minutes of the film.
So, in an attempt to repair their relationship, Christian agrees to let Dani come along with him and his buddies on a midsummer vacation jaunt to Sweden. Their agenda being to take magic mushrooms and hit on blonde girls and visit an isolated rural community (where one of the university friends hails from).
One of the striking things about this community is that the inhabitants all dress in white, which means it's easy to pick out the outsiders, even in a long shot.
The place has its own odd beliefs and rituals — and if I mention The Wicker Man at this point, you'll have some idea what is coming, though nothing can quite prepare you for the places Midsommar chooses to go.
Aster is an impressive film maker. There is an early sequence where Christian and his cronies are sitting around a table (stacked with books and bongs) in their apartment, when Dani pays an unwelcome call. The scene is shot with the austere virtuosity of Kubrick.
Midsommar is long, perhaps too long at two and a half hours — another Kubrick trait. But it doesn't drag, and it certainly holds the viewer's attention.
This is a movie you'll remember long after you leave the cinema. Images that linger include Dani's troubled face, the pupils of her eyes constantly shrunk by the intense perpetual sunlight of midsummer in Sweden, as if to shut out the horrors she is about to witness.
(Image credits: The three official posters come from Imp Awards. The impressive poster with five faces is from Amazing Zuckonit at Deviant Art. The distinctive grey poster and the one with the flower-faced girl are from the clearly talented Joan of Dyke on Tumblr.)