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Midsommar

Ari Aster

Last year’s Hereditary was a heady, stifling nightmare of a film that earned rave reviews and topped many a genre fans’ film of the year list, with critics and audiences alike heralding its director Ari Aster as an excitingly fresh voice in horror cinema. Showing no signs of slowing down, Aster is back with his sophomore effort, Midsommar, which trades Hereditary’s dense shadows for wide-open Scandinavian spaces bathed in bucolic sunshine.

"Scares as brilliant as they are terrifying..."

Florence Pugh plays Dani who, like Toni Colette’s character in Hereditary, is grappling with the weight of a recent personal tragedy in her life. Her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) has distanced himself from her, and reluctantly invites Dani to join him and his friends on a trip to rural Sweden. What follows may seem like a checklist of folk horror tropes – mysterious symbols, pagan rituals enacted by eerily smiling participants dressed in white, the juxtaposition of beautifully lush scenery with absolute terror – but Aster’s smart, knowing approach to genre means that this is not a simple revisit of familiar ground. As anyone who has seen Hereditary can attest, this is a director who is a master at ensuring that audiences never feel sure-footed and are in constant fear of what will happen next.

Aster’s inventive approach (as well as his confidence in delivering scares as brilliant as they are terrifying), cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski’s bold, bright images and composer The Haxan Cloak’s disorienting score make Midsommar one of the year’s most vital horror films.