Midsommar is a 2019 folk horror film written and directed by Ari Aster and starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, and Will Poulter. It follows a group of friends who travel to Sweden for a festival that occurs once every ninety years and find themselves in the clutches of a pagan cult.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ari Aster|
|Written by||Ari Aster|
|Music by||Bobby Krlic|
|Edited by||Lucian Johnston|
|Box office||$34.5 million|
A co-production between the United States and Sweden, the film was initially pitched as a straightforward slasher film set amongst Swedish cultists. Aster devised a screenplay using elements of the concept but made a deteriorating relationship the central conflict after he had experienced a difficult breakup. The film was shot on location in Budapest, Hungary in the summer and autumn of 2018.
Midsommar was theatrically released in the United States on July 3, 2019 by A24 and in Sweden on July 10, 2019 by Nordisk Film. The film received positive reviews from critics, with many praising Aster's direction and Pugh's performance.
College student Dani Ardor is traumatized after her sister kills their parents and then herself. The incident further strains Dani's relationship with her emotionally distant boyfriend, Christian Hughes, an anthropology graduate student, who has been wanting out of the relationship for a long time but stays because of a feeling of obligation.
The following summer, Dani learns that Christian and his friends, Mark and Josh, have been invited by their Swedish friend, Pelle, to attend a midsummer celebration at Pelle's ancestral commune, the Hårga, in Hälsingland. Pelle explains that this iteration of the celebration only occurs every ninety years. Christian had not told Dani about the trip, and the two argue. In an attempt to patch things up, Christian reluctantly invites Dani to come along, which she agrees to.
The group flies to Sweden and arrive at the commune. They meet Simon and Connie, an English couple invited by Pelle's brother Ingmar. He offers the group psilocybin, and under the influence of the drug, Dani has hallucinations of her dead sister. Tensions rise after the group witnesses an ättestupa where two commune elders commit senicide by leaping from a clifftop. When the male elder survives the fall, the cult mimic his wails of agony and crushes his skull with a mallet. Cult elder Siv explains that this is a perfectly normal expression of Hårga’s views on death, stating that every member must do the same at the age of 72. The scene deeply disturbs the group, particularly Dani, but they decide to stay, both at the behest of Pelle and because communes are the subject of Josh's thesis. Simon and Connie decide to leave. As Connie is gathering her things, an elder tells her that Simon has already left for the train station without her. Confused, Connie decides to leave the commune on her own.
Christian decides to copy Josh’s thesis on the Hårga, setting a rift between the two. Josh attempts to solicit more information on the commune's ancient runic practices, which are based on paintings made by a member conceived of incest whom they consider an oracle. After Mark unwittingly urinates on an ancestral tree and incites the fury of the cult, he is lured away by a female member to whom he had previously mentioned he was attracted. That night, Josh sneaks into a temple to photograph the cult’s sacred runic text. He is distracted by a partially nude man wearing Mark's skinned face and legs, and is hit over the head with the mallet before his body is dragged out of the temple.
The next day, Dani is coerced into taking more psychedelics and participates in a maypole dancing competition. She wins and is crowned the "May Queen", an esteemed title in the cult. At the same time, Christian is drugged and groomed to participate in a sex ritual in which he attempts to impregnate member Maja while other female cultists watch and interact. After discovering Christian and Maja having sex, Dani has a panic attack and several of the Hårga women wail with her. Shortly after, a disoriented Christian discovers Josh's buried leg and finds Simon, who has been ritually dismembered as a blood eagle. Christian is then paralyzed by an elder.
The cult gathers together with the paralyzed Christian, and explains to Dani that, to purge the commune of its evil, nine human sacrifices must be offered. The first four victims are outsiders—Josh, Mark, Connie, and Simon—lured to them by Pelle and Ingmar. The next four victims are cult members—two sacrificed elders, Ingmar, and another villager. Dani, as the May Queen, has to choose the ninth and final victim that must be an outsider or a villager. Finally prepared to purge Christian from her life, Dani chooses to sacrifice him. Still paralyzed, he is stuffed into a disemboweled bear and placed in a temple alongside the ritually-prepared corpses of the other sacrifices as well as the two still-living volunteer villagers who are given a paste made from the Yew tree to curb their suffering. The temple is set on fire. As it burns and the fire catches hold of one of the volunteers, he begins to scream in agony. Outside, the cult wail with him as they celebrate the completion of their ritual. Dani sobs in anguish and horror, but gradually begins to smile.
- Florence Pugh as Dani Ardor
- Jack Reynor as Christian Hughes
- William Jackson Harper as Josh
- Vilhelm Blomgren as Pelle
- Will Poulter as Mark
- Ellora Torchia as Connie
- Archie Madekwe as Simon
- Björn Andrésen as Dan
- Anna Åström as Karin
- Mats Blomgren as Odd
- Tomas Engström as Jarl
- Gunnel Fred as Siv
- Isabelle Grill as Maja
- Hampus Hallberg as Ingemar
- Rebecka Johnston as Ulrika
- Anki Larsson as Irma
- Liv Mjönes as Ulla
- Henrik Norlén as Ulf
- Louise Peterhoff as Hanna
- Julia Ragnarsson as Inga
- Agnes Westerlund Rase as Dagny
In May 2018, it was announced Ari Aster would write and direct the film, with Lars Knudsen serving as producer. B-Reel Films, a Swedish company, produced the film alongside Square Peg, with A24 distributing. According to Aster, he had been approached by A24 executives to helm a slasher film set in Sweden, an idea which he initially rejected as he felt he "had no way into the story." Aster ultimately devised a plot in which the two central characters are experiencing relationship tensions verging on a breakup, and wrote the surrounding screenplay around this theme. He described the result as "a breakup movie dressed in the clothes of a folk horror film."
In July 2018, Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter, Vilhem Blomgren, William Jackson Harper, Ellora Torchia, and Archie Madekwe joined the cast. Principal photography began on July 30, 2018, in Budapest, Hungary, and wrapped in October 2018.
Midsommar had a pre-release screening at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in New York City, on June 18, 2019. The film was theatrically released in the United States on July 3, 2019, and in the United Kingdom on July 5, 2019. It was released in Sweden on July 10, 2019.
In the United States and Canada, the film was projected to gross $8–10 million from 2,707 theaters over its first five days. It made $3 million on its first day, including $1.1 million from Tuesday night previews, which Deadline Hollywood called a "smashing start." It went on to debut to $10.9 million, finishing sixth at the box office; IndieWire said it was "just decent" given its high single-digit budget, but the film would likely find success in home media. In its second weekend, the film dropped 44% to $3.7 million, finishing in eighth.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 83% based on 311 reviews, with an average rating of 7.54/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Ambitious, impressively crafted, and above all unsettling, Midsommar further proves writer-director Ari Aster is a horror auteur to be reckoned with." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an average 3 out of 5 stars and a 50% "definite recommend."
John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter described the film as the "horror equivalent of a destination wedding", and "more unsettling than frightening, [but] still a trip worth taking." Writing for Variety, Andrew Barker noted that it is "neither the masterpiece nor the disaster that the film's most vocal viewers are bound to claim. Rather, it's an admirably strange, thematically muddled curiosity from a talented filmmaker who allows his ambitions to outpace his execution." David Edelstein of Vulture praised Pugh's performance as "amazingly vivid" and noted that Aster "paces Midsommar more like an opera (Wagner, not Puccini) than a scare picture," but concluded that the film "doesn't jell because its impulses are so bifurcated. It's a parable of a woman's religious awakening—that's also a woman's fantasy of revenge against a man who didn't meet her emotional needs—that's also a male director's masochistic fantasy of emasculation at the hands of a matriarchal cult."
Eric Kohn of IndieWire summarized the film as a "perverse breakup movie," adding that "Aster doesn't always sink the biggest surprises, but he excels at twisting the knife. After a deflowering that makes Ken Russell's The Devils look tame, Aster finds his way to a startling reality check." Time Out's Joshua Rothkopf awarded the film a 5/5 star-rating, writing, "A savage yet evolved slice of Swedish folk-horror, Ari Aster's hallucinatory follow-up to Hereditary proves him a horror director with no peer."
For The A.V. Club, A. A. Dowd stated that the film "rivals Hereditary in the cruel shock department", and labeled it a "B+ effort". Writing for Inverse, Eric Francisco commented that the film feels "like a victory lap after Hereditary", and that Aster "takes his sweet time to lull viewers into his clutches... But like how the characters experience time, its passage is a vague notion." He described the film as "a sharp portrayal of gaslighting". Richard Brody of The New Yorker said that the film "is built on such a void of insight and experience, such a void of character and relationships, that even the first level of the house of narrative cards can't stand." He added, "In the end, the subject of Midsommar is as simple as it is regressive: lucky Americans, stay home."
- "Midsommar (18)". British Board of Film Classification. June 29, 2019. Retrieved June 29, 2019.
- Brueggemann, Tom (July 7, 2019). "'Spider-Man: Far from Home' Spins Box Office Gold as 'Midsommar' Starts Okay". IndieWire. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
- "Midsommar (2019)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
- Donnelly, Matt (June 19, 2019). "'Midsommar' Traumatizes Early Audiences (But in a Good Way)". Variety.
- Fleming Jr, Mike (May 8, 2018). "A24 Pacts For 'Hereditary' Helmer Ari Aster's Next Horror Film". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
- Edelstein, David (June 19, 2019). "Ari Aster's Midsommar Is an Ambitious, Blurry Horror Trip". Vulture. Archived from the original on June 19, 2019.
- Kroll, Justin (July 30, 2018). "Florence Pugh Lands Female Lead in 'Hereditary' Director Ari Aster's Next Film". Variety. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
- Sneider, Jeff (July 30, 2018). "Exclusive: Jack Reynor, Will Poulter to Star in Ari Aster's Follow-Up to Hereditary". Collider. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
- Barfield, Charles (July 30, 2018). "Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter & More Set To Star In 'Hereditary' Director's New Horror Film". The Playlist. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
- Stolworthy, Jacob (June 19, 2019). "Midsommar reviews: 'Nightmarish' horror film hailed as modern-day Texas Chainsaw Massacre". The Independent. Archived from the original on June 20, 2019.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (April 3, 2019). "Ari Aster's 'Midsommar' Moves To Midsummer – CinemaCon". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
- Loughrey, Clarisse (July 4, 2019). "Midsommar review: One of the year's strangest, most distressing, and most memorable films". The Independent.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (June 29, 2019). "'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Could Weave Near Half Billion Web Around The World In First 10 Days Of B.O. – Preview". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 6, 2019). "What Summer B.O. Slump? $2.8B+ Season Near Even With 2018 As 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Heads To $177M-$184M". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 3, 2019). "'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Posts Record $39M+ Opening Tuesday, 'Midsommar' Sees $1M+ Previews". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 7, 2019). "'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Hooks $185M 6-Day Opening Records For Sony & Independence Day Holiday Stretch". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 7, 2019.
- D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 14, 2019). "Counterprogramming 'Crawl' & 'Stuber' Collateral Damage In Superhero Summer As 'Spider-Man' Climbs To $45M+ – Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
- "Midsommar (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
- "Midsommar reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
- DeFore, John (June 18, 2019). "'Midsommar': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on June 20, 2019.
- Barker, Andrew (June 19, 2019). "Film Review: 'Midsommar'". Variety. Archived from the original on June 19, 2019.
- Kohn, Eric. "'Midsommar' Review: 'Hereditary' Director's Latest Horror Epic Is Actually a Perverse Breakup Movie". IndieWire. Archived from the original on June 19, 2019.
- Rothkopf, Joshua (June 19, 2019). "Midsommar". Time Out. Archived from the original on June 20, 2019.
- Dowd, A. A. (June 20, 2019). "Midsommar Is a Deranged (and Funny!) Folk-Horror Nightmare from the Director of Hereditary". The A.V. Club. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
- Francisco, Eric. "'Midsommar' Review: An Unnerving Summer Horror Where the Sun Never Sets". Inverse. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
- Brody, Richard (2019-07-08). ""Midsommar," Reviewed: Ari Aster's Backwards Horror Story of an American Couple in Sweden". ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-07-09.