[Screen It]


(2019) (Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor) (R)

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Horror: A couple and their friends visit a Swedish commune and discover that things are not as idyllic as they initially seem.
It hasn't been a good year for Dani (FLORENCE PUGH). Not only did her parents and sister die in an apparent murder-suicide, but her four-year relationship with Christian (JACK REYNOR) is rocky at best. So much so that she's surprised to learn he's planning on traveling to Sweden with his friends Mark (WILL POULTER) and Josh (WILLIAM JACKSON HARPER) upon an invite from their mutual friend, Pelle (VILHELM BLOMGREN), who wants them to experience a nine-day ceremony at a remote commune.

Dani isn't disappointed that he's going, it's that he didn't tell her, and thus feeling guilty, he breaks it to his friends that she's now coming along. A few weeks later they arrive at the commune in Hårga where Pelle grew up and are eventually joined by newly engaged Simon (ARCHIE MADEKWE) and Connie (ELLORA TORCHIA). Hallucinogenic drugs run freely and both Josh and Christian decide to write their graduate school thesis on the place and its people, although the former isn't happy the latter has copied his idea.

But they and the rest end up with greater concerns and worry when the secrets behind the seemingly idyllic place start to emerge.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
While they can often go hand-in-hand, there's a definite difference between dread and horror. The first is the anticipation that something bad is going to occur sometime in the not-so-distant future. Horror is the result of that bad thing and usually involves one degree or another of revulsion.

Of course, when it comes to horror movies, both are in play as viewers expect the ghost, boogeyman or monster is going to strike, and then react in fright once that does, often in a repetitive cycle. But not all horror films are scary or frightening, and that's clearly the case with "Midsommar," writer/director Ari Aster's follow-up to the truly spooky "Hereditary" (and for clarification purposes is not a remake of the 2003 horror flick "Midsommer" with just a change in one letter).

That said, both films take place in Sweden. Yet, while that earlier one deals with Danish students encountering a supernatural presence in the woods that may or may not be connected to a friend's suicide, this one's terror is induced by the residents of a seemingly idyllic commune. But with some heavy duty cultish aspects tied to that, we know it's only a matter of time before something bad happens to our outsiders who've arrived in the place.

They consist of Dani (Florence Pugh) whose boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor) -- despite not really being into the four-year relationship anymore -- ends up guilted into inviting her along on an overseas trip with his friends Mark (Will Poulter) and Josh (William Jackson Harper). They've been invited there by their mutual friend Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) who grew up in the commune and wants them to experience a nine-day, mid-summer festival.

Meeting two other outsiders -- Simon (Archie Madekwe) and Connie (Ellora Torchia) -- they're soon partaking in hallucinogenic drugs and observing the inhabitants and their lifestyle and behavior, some of which -- particularly at mealtime -- is highly regimented. But then things go south in one of the film's truly horrifying moments that's sort of a far more primitive and pagan version of the "Carrousel renewal" in the now 43-year-old sci-fi flick "Logan's Run."

That's thematically tied to the film's opening scene where firefighters turn off some running cars in a garage where hoses to the tailpipes lead to a disturbing and apparent murder-suicide involving Dani's parents and sister. And that's helped lead to the further dissolution of Dani and Christian's relationship that ends up further strained -- and then some -- by the turn of events at the commune.

In concept, I liked all of that and certainly felt dread while watching some of what transpires. But I also felt a great deal of boredom as the nearly 150-minute movie played out. While Aster's symbolic directorial flourishes keep things somewhat interesting -- such as having the camera upside down upon the group's arrival, signaling how their lives are going to turn out -- in the end I kept feeling like the film needed another pass -- or two, or three or twenty -- through the editing booth to make things tighter.

And while I'll admit the following is my own issue in terms of anticipation, I was expecting so much more from the flick. After all, I found "Hereditary" quite scary and unsettling, even including the gonzo third act.

So, and based solely on that and the film's trailer, I figured I was going to be similarly scared out of my mind, so to speak, by what was going to occur here. Alas, while there's dread and some truly disturbing and horrifying moments, I didn't find those or the film in general remotely scary or frightening and thus this "Midsommar" trip feels a bit like a wasted opportunity. It rates as a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed June 24, 2019 / Posted July 3, 2019

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