‘Midsommar’ Traumatizes Early Audiences (But in a Good Way)

Ari Aster can likely cross off “sophomore slump” from his list of many nightmares.

Distributor A24 let loose the follow-up to the director’s widely praised hit debut feature, “Hereditary,” with two buzz screenings, which ran simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles on Tuesday night. Response was almost unanimously positive, if not significantly rattled.

“Holy s—,” wrote Slash Film’s Chris Evangelista, adding that the movie was “disturbing” but an absolute “crowd pleaser.” Dozens of early viewers complimented Aster’s ability to create plausible terror in broad daylight, while others reveled in a leading performance from on-the-verge indie darling Florence Pugh and the deadpan bro antics of her co-star Will Poulter.

“Delightful from its nightmare of an opening to its floral purge of a finale,” said IndieWire’s David Ehrlich.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so gutted and seen by a movie. I felt sick, I felt joy – I felt so much,” commented Nerdist’s Lindsey Romain.

[Warning: minor plot details of “Midsommar” ahead]

Midsommar” follows a pack of American boys (grad students, seemingly) who trek to rural Sweden to observe and participate in a midsommar season festival — a typically whimsical Northern European custom of ringing in the solstice with organized dances, feasts and flower crowns (long before black SUVs brimming over with stars from the CW would appropriate them for Coachella).

Tensions are high, however, as Christian (Jack Reynor, whose glassy blue eyes get a sinister upgrade through Aster’s lens) has invited his grieving girlfriend Dani (Pugh) to crash the party. Dani and Christian are not only living with an unspeakable trauma she suffers at the top of the film, they’re fighting for dear life as a couple. Christian can’t seem to “get off the fence” about staying together, as one characters says, and his lack of empathy has Dani bending over backwards to maintain the status quo while she mourns.

This particular festival takes place in a peculiar but long-standing communal village, where the gang’s classmate Pelle (newcomer Vilhelm Blomgren) was raised. He serves as their host to increasingly strange traditions. They not only give way to horrors in the angelic, prolonged sunlight of the Swedish solstice, but bring out the worst in their foreign guests and their respective interpersonal beefs.

Aster and members of his ensemble Reynor, Poulter, and Blomgren turned up to Brooklyn’s Alamo Drafthouse Theater to toast the the film. A Q&A was live-streamed to Westwood’s iPic Theater in Los Angeles (where their co-star William Jackson Harper saw the movie for the first time).

“About four years ago, I was actually brought a broad folk horror concept by a Swedish production company called B-Reel. They pitched me an ‘Americans going to Sweden and then getting killed off’ concept,” Aster shared in Brooklyn with moderator Leslye Headland (“Russian Doll,” “Bachelorette”).

“At the time, I was going through a breakup that was fresh. I saw a way of marrying the breakup movie with the folk horror subgenre and making it this big operatic movie. It became very personal,” he said.

Aster, for what it’s worth, said Pugh’s fictional character represented his real life experience. It hits theaters July 3.

Read more reaction for “Midsommar”:

More Film


    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Proposal for New Film-TV Contract

    The SAG-AFTRA national board has approved proposals for a successor deal to its master contract covering feature film and primetime television — a key step in the upcoming negotiations cycle with companies. The board approved the package Saturday with the performers union declining to reveal any specifics — its usual policy. The board established the wages [...]

  • Cameron Crowe, David Crosby, A.J. Eaton.

    Cameron Crowe on Why He Loved Leaving David Crosby Doc on a CSNY Question Mark

    David Crosby may or may not have stuck a joint in Cameron Crowe’s mouth the first time he ever met the future filmmaker, when Crosby was peaking with Crosby Stills Nash & Young and his interviewer was a precocious 15-year-old Rolling Stone correspondent. As Crowe said to Jimmy Kimmel the other night, “I remember it [...]

  • Mokalik

    Nigeria’s Kunle Afolayan: African Audiences Shouldn’t Be ‘Second-Class’

    DURBAN–A young boy from a middle-class home gets an unconventional schooling in the ways of the world when he’s forced to apprentice at a mechanic’s workshop in a rough-and-tumble section of Lagos. “Mokalik” is the latest feature from Kunle Afolayan, a leading figure in the wave of filmmakers revitalizing the Nigerian film industry. The film [...]

  • Alicia Rodis photographed by Alicia Rodis

    SAG-AFTRA Moves to Standardize Guidelines for Intimacy Coordinators

    SAG-AFTRA is moving to standardize guidelines for intimacy coordinators as part of an effort to establish policies for union members when their work involves nudity and simulated sex. “Our goal is to normalize and promote the use of intimacy coordinators within our industry,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Intimacy coordinators provide an important safety net for [...]

  • The Lion King

    Box Office: 'The Lion King' Roars Overseas With Mighty $269 Million

    Disney’s “The Lion King” certainly felt the love this weekend, generating $269 million at the international box office. Director Jon Favreau’s remake of the classic Disney cartoon now holds the eighth-biggest debut of all time overseas, and that’s not including the film’s early opening in China last weekend. Combined with a stellar $185 million start [...]

  • Scarlett JohanssonMarvel Studios panel, Comic-Con International,

    Scarlett Johansson Reveals What We'll Learn About Black Widow in Stand-Alone Movie

    Scarlett Johansson can finally talk about her upcoming “Black Widow” movie. While she can’t divulge spoilers, she let out a big sigh of relief after the film was officially announced on Saturday during the Marvel Studios presentation at Comic-Con. “I feel like a weight has been lifted,” the Oscar nominee told Variety. “Black Widow” is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content