The horror genre has seen any number of seemingly bland inanimate objects imbued with otherworldly amounts of dread, but Midsommar, the latest from Hereditary director Ari Aster, will leave audiences looking cockeyed at flower crowns all summer long. The trailers promise a soul-searing, wild-eyed ride through bright, pastel-colored imagery to shock the system and scar the psyche even in broad daylight, but beyond that inventive aesthetic lies a story of a doomed relationship clashing with a curious new culture.

Aster set out to write a more straightforward horror film in the wake of Hereditary’s heavy themes about trauma and grief, but in true Aster fashion, he still wound up grappling with those subjects, albeit through the prism of writing a break-up film. Before taking the excursion to the Swedish countryside, Aster introduces us to Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor), a couple who should, before anything else, absolutely break the fuck up. They’re not bad people, but they are terrible for one another. Unfortunately, a traumatic experience befalls Dani, precluding Christian from biting the bullet and bailing on her.

As a result, Christian winds up bringing a grieving Dani along with him for a trip to Sweden with his group of anthropology student friends, played by Will Poulter and William Jackson Harper. The ensuing tag-along allows Aster to depict some of the cringiest, most uncomfortable approximations of that weird clash that can form between friends and significant others, wringing maximum tension and comedy from this new predicament. But all of that is essentially prologue for the main event to come, when this group must coexist with the Harga, a secretive village of Swedes with their own unique culture and customs, all of which involve being extra as fuck, wearing flower crowns, drinking drugged tea and dancing and singing all of the goddamn time forever.

As the festivities progress, their mysterious ways evolve from being broadly weird to specifically terrifying, but the film takes its time luxuriating in the environs to the point that audiences can be sufficiently lulled by the decor and sights to temporarily forget they’re here to see a horror movie and that these blatantly suspicious-ass people are not all they seem. But what’s interesting is how pedestrian the Harga’s transgressions begin to feel.

See, since we spend so much time with Dani and Christian and their little group, we see the depressing effects of repression and pettiness and dishonesty that plague the average Western society. We see how miserable and fucked-up and demonstrably unhappy these people are. So when that’s all juxtaposed with a bunch of laughing, smiling, meat pie-eating goofballs whose culture is admittedly founded upon some wild ideas, it’s hard to discount that the end product of all their weirdness is a functioning community of happy, loved individuals.

By playing those two mindsets and lifestyles against one another, a pretty depressing portrait of modern living begins to take shape. It’s a sharp indictment of the way many of us live that the flower crown weirdos seem to be one-upping us in every other respect. That the journey here is so much more broadly funny and brilliantly realized than Hereditary is a huge triumph for Aster, a filmmaker who easily could have whiffed it hard on his sophomore effort, ambitious as it is. But for all Midsommar’s brilliant cinematography, killer performances (especially from Pugh) and memorable sequences, it’s entirely too damn long.

The time taken in the film’s first half is essential to the specific effect Aster is after here, but it means that he runs out of steam and creative ideas by the third act, and instead of quickly drawing the curtain to a close after the film’s twin climaxes, we’re forced to sit through an inevitable finish that lacks the verve and panache of what has preceded it. A lackluster ending notwithstanding, everything that leads up to it is so entertaining and engrossing, it’s hard to complain much. All good trips come to an unseemly end. This should be no different.

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