I love really any kind of horror film, as long as it’s well done with what it wants to do. If there’s one genre that really doesn’t need to worry about being character driven, it’s horror. It relies more on atmosphere and suspense to keep you engrossed, rather than deep characters. Sometimes the atmosphere and suspense aren’t really all there, but the characters and their situation are strong enough to keep you engaged. If there isn’t much of either, though, you might be in for a long ride… especially when it pushes 2 and a half hours. 
Midsommar follows Dani (Florence Pugh), a college student who just lost her parents and sister in a murder-suicide. Clearly distraught and filled with grief, her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), who was planning to break up with her, decides to stay and console her. Six months later in the middle of summer, Dani tags along with Christian and his friends to a super-secret festival in Sweden. When they arrive, it turns out to be a creepy cult, but our characters stay and party anyway. As they participate in and observe the cult’s ceremony, they realize that they may have some ulterior motives for them. Well… duh. 

If Hereditary proved anything, it proved that Ari Aster is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to portraying realistic loss and grief in film.  Toni Collette’s descent into madness and dragging her whole family down with her was terrifying, mostly because it all felt so real (except when the demons were thrown in). Aster shows that same command here, with an absolutely haunting and depressing opening sequence that legitimately made me feel sick to my stomach. When you take in and analyze what it all means and the effect it has on the main character Dani, it’s heartbreaking, horrifying, and nasty. Florence Pugh is an amazingly natural actress, all sold by the scenes of her crying, bawling, and straight up wailing. When she finds out her family is dead and she’s just wailing and wailing, all while yelling, “No, no, no…” is one of the most realistic depictions of grief I’ve ever seen on film. It’s from here the tone and atmosphere is set with some incredibly creepy orchestral music with heavy violins. The dread had fully set in for me and I was ready for a wild ride. 
Unfortunately, that sheer sense of dreadful hopelessness slowly dissipated and I never really felt all that sick or uncomfortable again. From there, your story is pretty standard “attractive young people go off to a mysterious land which turns out to be a horrific cult” narrative. Dani, Christian, and his friends all talk about going, travel there, interact with the cult, the cult does creepy rituals, the characters realize there’s something fishy but can’t leave, etc. It’s all stuff we’ve seen before in every other cult movie and none of it here was particularly interesting. It’s occasionally creepy with the some of the scenery, but not enough. My biggest problem with Hereditary was that it played its hand too late and suddenly threw all of the supernatural/demon stuff in the very end. With this, you know it’s a weird cult right when they get there, but the end result just isn’t interesting. Again, it’s all stuff we’ve seen in cult movies before and with a way too long 140-minute runtime, the payoff definitely didn’t feel justified. Seriously, unless your name is Stanley Kubrick, your horror film really shouldn’t push 100-minutes. At least there was an absolutely AWESOME exploding face. Some terrific practical gore effects on display here. 

Like Hereditary, this is far more character driven than most horror movies, but none of the characters really have anything going on, some of them feeling like they’re there just to be killed. Aside from Pugh, the rest of the performances didn’t really do much for me. Aster attempts to interject some little subplots here and there with certain characters, but they feel thrown in and slow the movie down further than it’s already going. It didn’t help that the characters were ridiculously stupid. From the get go, they see a bunch of people frolicking around in white gowns, giggling like children. Then, they just gladly take some tea laced with drugs from them. It’s not until too late that they realize there’s something sinister afoot, but red flags would have been thrown up for me immediately. Seriously, one character just eventually believes a cultist’s story that her boyfriend was taken to the train station and not killed? It was hard for me to be sympathetic towards anybody, even Dani. Her resolution does make sense in the grand scheme of things, but her character feels just as flat as the rest. The opening scene sets up some heavy elements for her, with her failing relationship with Christian and the death of her family, but it’s all never expounded upon enough. It mostly just feels like characters wandering around, tripping out on drugs, and acting incredibly dumb. I do respect that the drug tripping scenes in this were represented realistically, though, and not like a lot of other films. 
I can’t fault Aster on the technical side of things, though. He’s clearly a very talented filmmaker, as the film is gorgeously shot, mostly thanks to the Swedish (actually Hungarian) scenery. There’s a lot of deliberate, symmetrical framing and some excellent tracking shots, as well as very precise editing. It all just failed to really set a sufficiently creepy atmosphere for me after that opening scene, though. I know I keep bringing up that opening, but the rest of the film feeling lackluster makes it feel that much better, but also that much more disappointing. I was really hoping for Midsommar to be a terrifying and sickening experience, but due to the dissipated tone and lack of interesting story or characters, I was just kind of just ready for this summer to be over. 
10/10 for that opening scene, though. Seriously, perfection.

Movie Talker Tirade

In today’s edition of Movie Talker Tirade, we’ll be talking about Whispering Whitney, the middle-aged blonde woman sitting in front of Grant and I. This took place at our usual theater of choice, the dine-in theater Flix Brewhouse.

You see, Grant and I make every effort possible to avoid being in a horror film with other patrons. That’s why we usually catch an early morning showing, which we specifically did for this at 10:45 AM. Well, just because it’s us and our luck, Whispering Whitney and her male friend (wasn’t too sure of the relation) arrived at the last minute and were sitting in front of us.

Throughout the first half hour, Whispering Whitney kept whispering to her friend, who would never respond, just silently paying attention to the movie… like you should. Grant eventually got fed up, leaned over, and asked, “Excuse me, can you please stop talking?” She did… for a while.

She began whispering again, particularly during a more tense scene of the film. This time, Grant and I complained to the manager Brandon (the most G movie theater manager of all time) and he occasionally monitored the theater. Unfortunately, he could only do so much, as he never caught her talking.

During the last 45 minutes or so, Grant got hungry and ordered some french fries. As he was eating, Whispering Whitney stood up, turned around to look at us, then exclaimed, “You know, you complain to me about talking, but you’re chewing really fucking loud!”

Grant replied, “Yeah, but food in here is fine. We don’t need your commentary, lady.”

“Yeah, just talk more, why don’t you?” I said.

She didn’t say anything else and just walked out, apparently to go to the bathroom for a half hour, or something. She finally came back and was silent the rest of the film.

After it was over, Grant and I ran into Brandon out in the hall and we talked about it. He was cool and professional, as always, and even gave us some free passes for the inconvenience. So, we kind of won in the end.

So, to Whispering Whitney, please don’t ever step into a movie theater again. Nobody wants you there. Trust me.

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