Midsommar is a brutish, nasty daylight nightmare from the director of Hereditary (2022)

Have you ever been in a place very far north or south during the months when the sun barely sets? Unless you’ve already grown used to it, it’s both beautiful and frightening. In the unending daylight, brains accustomed to resetting themselves when it gets dark start to fuzz out confusedly; basic concepts on which our bodies depend, like time, no longer make a fundamental, corporeal sense. It’s disorienting and eerie, lending an otherworldly quality to everything. The last time I was in Iceland, in early July several years ago, I understood why talk of the existence of fairies and gnomes persists there.

Ari Aster’s Midsommar, a confidently directed and operatic follow-up to 2018’s Hereditary, situates its tale of grief, breakups, and rites in northern Sweden, at the height of its endless sun season. It’s a smart choice for the story he wants to tell. Midsommar is obsessed with the passage of time and the cycle of seasons, and the ways humans scramble to make sense of life’s big changes (like death, aging, and breakups).

As it turns out, neither the modern approach of treating changes like tragedies to be mourned nor the more ancient, even pagan instinct to memorialize them with rituals and acceptance is more “civilized.” Human life is violent, nasty, and explosive.

This is, after all, a horror film. It’s meant to horrify us. And there’s nothing on earth more horrifying than existence itself.

Horror challenges our beliefs that the world can be controlled, and Midsommar knows just how to do it

Note: This should go without saying, but if you don’t want any spoilers at all about the plot of Midsommar, stop here and come back after you’ve seen the film.

Horror burrows under our skin because it clobbers one of the core principles we Modern People cling to: The world may be confusing, but it is ultimately knowable. Through study and medicine and technology, we can control everything from our emotions to the weather.

Of course, this is a ridiculous fiction, but we hold on to it to get through the day. Even religious people, who look beyond the strictly material to make sense of the world, still tend to believe in scientific explanations for why rain falls, or why some combination of ingredients, pressed into a pill, can help you feel better.

So the truly inexplicable unnerves us, and perhaps nothing is more inexplicable than death — why it happens and whether it has meaning or simply proves that nothing really matters in the end. We don’t understand it. We never have.

Midsommar is a brutish, nasty daylight nightmare from the director of Hereditary (1) A24

That’s what Aster seems to inherently understand: His films spend lots of time developing a sense of dread about and horror of the ordinary before they spiral off into the extraordinary. Life and its disintegrations are scary enough.

Hereditary was about a family (and especially a woman) in deep mourning after the ordinary death of one family member and the tragic death of another. In the end, the film dipped into the terrifyingly supernatural.

In Midsommar, another woman, a graduate student named Dani (Florence Pugh), is grieving her entire family after her sister, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, kills herself and her parents by piping car exhaust into the sealed-off house at night. Mental health issues seem to runs in the family — another strong link to Hereditary, which can be read as an allegory for inherited mental illness — but an event like this would take down the most stable and even-keeled person. Dani takes a break from school, but holds it together with the help of her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor). (More on that name later.)

The thing is, Christian was about to break up with Dani just before the tragedy, with encouragement from his fellow dirtbag grad school friends Josh (William Jackson Harper), Mark (Will Poulter), and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren). But now, of course, he can’t.

Months later, when summer arrives, Dani and Christian are still listlessly together. Josh is writing his dissertation on traditional midsummer celebrations, and Pelle is from a remote village in northern Sweden, so when Josh decides to accompany Pelle home for a month and a half to do more research, Mark and Christian decide to tag along. And after a near-fight with Dani, Christian invites her too — apparently to avoid an actual fight — and to everyone’s surprise, she decides to come.

Midsommar is a brutish, nasty daylight nightmare from the director of Hereditary (2) A24

Pelle’s village is more like a commune, or “a community,” as Pelle puts it — essentially a cluster of four buildings nestled into a hidden valley. To get there, the group drives four hours from Stockholm, hikes through the woods, and finally emerges into the clearing through a wooden gate that resembles a sunburst. Everyone in the community is tall and blond and Swedish, and for their annual “midsommar” celebrations, they’ve dressed in white, braided flower crowns, and prepared for nine days of rituals.

Everything in the community seems at once odd and kind of idyllic. It’s all very harmonious. The quartet of Americans start to learn the ways of the group, who split life into 18-year seasons: spring (until age 18), summer (ages 18 to 36), fall (36 to 54), and winter (54 to 72). Your work, activities, stature in the community, and even sleeping arrangements are dictated by your season. They’ve developed a way of life that, through its rituals, ascribes a sacredness to every part of life, from birth to death — basically, the kind of religion less interested in deities than in worshipping the cycle of life itself.

But the harmony, of course, masks something much darker. And the four American interlopers slowly discover that they’re being drawn into it, which they very much cannot control.

Midsommar suggests existence is terrible, no matter how you handle it

Midsommar brings together some truly excellent acting talent, and that — along with the simultaneously gorgeous and creepy images Aster concocts with cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski — is reason enough to see it. Reynor (whose most winning role is as the older brother in Sing Street), Poulter (from Black Mirror: Bandersnatch), and Harper (playing a version of his Good Place character Chidi) are all great counterweights to the ethereal villagers.

Each ably represents some kind of dully modern tendency. Josh is the pedantic ethnographer who turns the village’s magic into an object for study; Mark won’t stop vaping and making lewd comments about the women; and the conflict-avoiding Christian — whose very name seems chosen to indicate he’s the avatar of a post-pagan era — seems incapable of making choices for himself, or of imagining himself in anyone else’s shoes.

But the most stunning performance comes from Pugh, who ignited 2017’s Lady Macbeth with her chilling portrayal of a wronged woman exacting her revenge on the world of men. (She’ll soon be playing Amy March in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, due out this fall.) In Midsommar, she unloads her guts in paroxysms of grief so primal and violent, they nearly upstage the film’s scariest images.

Midsommar is a brutish, nasty daylight nightmare from the director of Hereditary (3) A24

And scary images it has in abundance. After its initial tragedy, Midsommar spends so much time letting us dwell in the sunlit paradise of the village that we’ve almost forgotten we’re watching a horror film by the time the first jolt arrives. When it does, though, the movie won’t let us forget again. There’s no cutting away from the disturbing in Midsommar (in fact, the camera prefers to push into the worst of it); you will look at this, and you will see the violence that is life and death, the movie says.

Yet it’s the clash of the pagan rituals and the outsiders’ attempts to deal with them that’s scariest. Some try to analyze, or to run away; others, in the end, just give up. Yet Midsommar is not really pro-pagan. Is life in a world where death is accepted, welcomed, even ritualized better than in our own, where it is nasty and brutish and unnaturally extended?

Yes, the movie says, but also no. If anything, the perspective of Midsommar is almost anti-humanist: People find ways to make the crude facts of life, the violence of acts of birth, reproduction, and death, seem less awful. But whether we celebrate the seasons of life or fight them, welcome the changes or mourn them, it’s still bad.

There’s no escaping the brutality of existence, no dark corner to hide in. The best you can do is look it straight in the eye and smile through the savagery.

Midsommar opens in theaters on July 3.

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FAQs

Is Midsommar based on Hereditary? ›

The short answer is: It's complicated. Unfortunately for fans hoping for a Hereditary sequel, the two films are not directly connected. But Aster did recently tell Fandango that Midsommar and Hereditary do share some DNA. Photo: Courtesy of IMDb.

Do Hereditary and Midsommar have the same director? ›

Ari Aster (born July 15, 1986) is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. He is known for writing and directing the horror films Hereditary (2018) and Midsommar (2019).

Which is more disturbing Midsommar or Hereditary? ›

The Story Victor: Hereditary

I love how bizarre Midsommar gradually gets, but Hereditary's story is much more cohesive, and in that way, much more unsettling.

Where did the inspiration for Midsommar come from? ›

Aster has mentioned 1981 Albert Brooks film Modern Romance as an inspiration for Midsommar, and also called it "The Wizard of Oz for perverts". Aster worked with the film's production designer Henrik Svensson to develop the film's folklore elements and the traditions of the Hårga, while visiting Hälsingland together.

Should I watch Hereditary before Midsommar? ›

According to director Ari Aster, "Midsommar" is a "companion" to his previous movie "Hereditary" — but definitely not a sequel. In a previous interview, Aster revealed that "Midsommar" is a "companion" to 2018 film "Hereditary," something he confirmed while speaking with INSIDER.

How do Swedes feel about Midsommar? ›

Maypoles and dancing

Midsummer is normally an occasion of large gatherings − and to be honest, many Swedes take advantage of it to fulfil their social obligations so that they can enjoy the rest of their holiday in peace. In many cases, whole families gather to celebrate this traditional high-point of the summer.

What's the point of Hereditary? ›

When it comes to "Hereditary," it's Paimon who is summoned at the very end of the film, and it's revealed that Peter is his intended vessel -– a human host for Paimon to embody on Earth. That's right: After (metaphorically) going through hell and back, Peter is revealed to be the focus of the entire twisted story.

Is Hereditary based on a true story? ›

The script reflects a real-life incident from 2004 in Marietta, Georgia, in which John Kemper Hutcherson accidentally decapitated his childhood friend and passenger, Frankie Brohm, on a telephone pole, after the latter had leaned his head from the vehicle to relieve the symptoms of his inebriation.

What is in the director's cut of Midsommar? ›

A 171-minute long director's cut premiered at the Scary Movies XII film festival at the Lincoln Film Center. This version adds more graphic violence and extends many pre-existing scenes. The 171-minute director's cut restores nearly 24 minutes of additional scenes that were not included in the original cut.

Why is Midsommar so disturbing? ›

What Parents Need to Know. Parents need to know that Midsommar is an extremely violent horror movie from the maker of Hereditary. It involves a sinister, ages-old ceremony that includes disturbing rituals. Characters are beaten and smashed, and bodies are cut up and burned (in some cases, alive).

What are the scariest parts of Hereditary? ›

The Scariest Scenes In Hereditary
  • Annie's Mother Appears In The Corner Of the Room. ...
  • Steve Instantly Catches Fire. ...
  • Charlie's Decapitation. ...
  • Annie And Peter Are Suddenly Covered In Lighter Fluid. ...
  • Peter Breaks His Own Nose. ...
  • Charlie Appears In Peter's Bedroom. ...
  • Paimon's Followers Gather In The Tree House. ...
  • The Opening Scene.
24 Oct 2021

Will Midsommar give me nightmares? ›

'Midsommar' Is The Next 'Hereditary' & It Will Give You Nightmares | Hit Network.

Is Midsommar based on a real religion? ›

The Midsommar Celebration Is Christian-Based, Not Pagan

Swedish author Po Tidholm, who studies the pagan practices and other traditions of his country, told Esquire that many of the film's rituals are actually based in Christianity: The Swedish "midsommarstång" or "maypole" is said to be of German, Christian heritage.

What is the message behind Midsommar? ›

Midsommar is essentially a two and a half hour study of one woman's emotional journey towards emancipation from a toxic relationship. Like director Ari Aster's first film, Hereditary, it's a dark drama disguised as a terror flick. Unlike Hereditary, it has a happy ending.

Is Midsommar based on a real culture? ›

Ari Aster's Midsommar is partially based on a real-life Swedish festival, but the customs don't involve the same violence and pagan cult activities on show in the horror movie.

Is Hereditary actually scary? ›

Hereditary isn't just a scary movie. It's much, much, much worse than that. The new instant horror classic (★★★½ out of four; rated R; in theaters nationwide Friday) follows along the lines of Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist in crafting a visceral experience so deeply unsettling that you don't feel right afterward.

Is Hereditary the best horror movie ever? ›

Now a new study from GIGACalculator.com has confirmed that Hereditary is, scientifically speaking, the scariest film of all time. To do that, they asked 150 brave souls to watch a selection of noted horror films for the first time, while wearing a heart rate tracker to monitor their pulse.

Why is Hereditary scary? ›

Parents need to know that Hereditary is an extremely dark, creepy horror movie with ghosts, seances, death, burned bodies, severed heads, a deadly car accident, maggots, flies, ants, blood, and scenes of rage, screaming, and panic.

Why is it called Midsommar? ›

Midsommar is basically Swedish for midsummer, which the Swedes and other Northern Europeans observe as a holiday for the Summer solstice. Depending on who you ask, Midsommar, usually celebrated between the third and fourth week of June, isn't even in the middle of Summer — it's the first day that Summer begins.

What is the ritual in Midsommar? ›

THE SEX SCENE

Vilhelm Blomgren, left, Florence Pugh and Ari Aster on the set of “Midsommar.” One of the things revealed on a tapestry is the love ritual that is performed on Christian, meant to bind him to a specific young woman for conception and procreation.

Is Ättestupa real? ›

Even the word "Ättestupa" is real. This isn't being pulled from historical fact, but it is part of Swedish folklore that people once committed ritual suicide this way, with an audience present.

What do the ants symbolize in Hereditary? ›

Symbolically, ants are drawn to death, and pigeons are messengers who sometimes carry warnings. That the pigeon appears early in the film doesn't feel coincidental.

Why did Charlie click her tongue in Hereditary? ›

The clicking is a way to suppress her inability to deal with emotions—the click signifying that Charlie's mind has bottled up and compartmentalized her emotions and thoughts she hasn't dealt with.

What is the family secret in Hereditary? ›

The Graham family has been cursed by a demon passed down through generations. And when Ellen dies, Annie inherits the demon, who she passes on to her children. The cult's goal is to have a young male host to put the demon Paimon into.

Is Hereditary movie about schizophrenia? ›

Today, Jenn, Mike, and Lara embark on a new mental health topic by examining schizophrenia in Ari Aster's harrowing and deeply personal horror film, Hereditary. They'll discuss uncomfortable conversations, family secrets, and untreated mental illness.

What happened to the girls head in Hereditary? ›

Peter took Charlie and rushed to his car and through the highway to get to the hospital as soon as possible, but Charlie's situation worsened every second. Charlie leaned out of the window for air, and as Peter swerved to avoid a deer on the road, he sideswiped a telephone pole and decapitated Charlie.

Did Peter break his nose in Hereditary? ›

https://www.facebook.com/RentonUsers/The Scariest Scene of Peter (Alex Wolff) is seemingly possessed at school and breaks his own nose in the classroom scene...

What is the difference between Midsommar and Midsommar directors cut? ›

Midsommar wowed audiences when it hit theaters in 2019, but the director's cut is the movie's best version. The director's cut adds 30 minutes of footage to the already lengthy film. The additional scenes give extra meat to the character motivations, which ultimately benefits Midsommar in the long run.

How do I watch Midsommar directors cut? ›

Currently you are able to watch "Midsommar: Director's Cut" streaming on fuboTV.

Why did Dani throw up in Midsommar? ›

In one scene in particular, after being crowned May Queen, Dani sees her boyfriend take part in a sex ritual and proceeds to have a massive panic attack, in which she vomits and sobs loudly — all while the Hårgan women surround her and mimic her sobs.

What did Dani see in the barn? ›

And while yes, by the Midsommar ending Dani's boyfriend Christian is being burned alive in a ritualistic barn, literally inside the carcass of a bear, alongside the mutilated corpses of their friends, Dani has found a sense of community.

Who is the smiling man in Hereditary? ›

The smiling naked man that Peter (Alex Wolff) sees in the doorway at the back end of the film is the same man who was smiling at Peter at his grandmother's funeral at the front end of the film. The chocolate bar that Charlie is eating in the scene where she's snipping off the dead bird's head is a Dove chocolate bar.

Who put the grandmas body in the attic in Hereditary? ›

7) Who put the body in the Attic? When granny's headless body turns up in the attic, audiences could be forgiven for believing Annie is the culprit. Ari Aster cleared that bit up, saying "the cult of "Paimonists" dug her up and put her there (as per grandma's instructions)."

Who is the villain in Hereditary? ›

King Paimon (simply known as Paimon) is the main antagonist of 2018 psychological/supernatural horror film Hereditary. He is a powerful demon who is one of the great kings of Hell. His worshipers want him to manifest in the mortal world, so he can make them wealthy and knowledgeable.

Is Midsommar a psychological horror? ›

Ari Aster's folk-horror/psychological-thriller, Midsommar, is the kind of film that haunts your dreams (and, lets be honest, waking hours), for days to come. The movie tells the story of a group of friends who travel to Sweden for a fabled mid-summer festival.

Why is Midsommar rated R? ›

The MPAA rating has been assigned for “disturbing ritualistic violence and grisly images, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language.” The Kids-In-Mind.com evaluation includes an extended sex scene including full nudity, several scenes of death by suicide and murder leaving bloody and broken bodies, ...

Did Midsommar get taken off Netflix? ›

Unfortunately, at the moment, Midsommar is not currently streaming on Netflix.

Who is the god in Midsommar? ›

In Midsommar these symbols most clearly represent a call to the gods for fertility, as a baby cries in most scenes inside of the barn. Even Christian wears the symbol of an upward facing arrow based on the Norse god Týr who sacrificed himself for the greater good. Therefore, Christian's death reflects Týr's.

Why was Dani chosen as the May Queen? ›

As one of the final dancers, Dani starts to talk and understand Swedish in her buzzed state. Then the other final two run into each other, leaving Dani as the last one standing. Dani is crowned as the festival's “May Queen” just as Christian is given drugs as well and takes part in the sex ritual with Maja.

Is halsingland real? ›

Hälsingland (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈhɛ̌lːsɪŋland] ( listen)), sometimes referred to as Helsingia in English, is a historical province or landskap in central Sweden. It borders Gästrikland, Dalarna, Härjedalen, Medelpad and the Gulf of Bothnia. It is part of the land of Norrland.

What does Midsommar mean in English? ›

It's a word found in Swedish, Germany, and other European languages that translates to midsummer, but actually refers to what is technically known as the first day of summer or the summer solstice.

What did Dani see in Midsommar? ›

For example, there's a moment everyone believes Simon left the village without telling his girlfriend Connie behind. Dani bitterly states how she thinks Christian would do the same. The ending of Midsommar kicks off after Dani sees Christian having sex with one of the villagers.

Why did Dani smile at the end of Midsommar Reddit? ›

As a result, when Dani smiles in the last shot, the audience is supposed to feel happy for her that she is now an important member of this group, is free of her boyfriend, and has a new family.

Are Hereditary and Midsommar connected? ›

The short answer is: It's complicated. Unfortunately for fans hoping for a Hereditary sequel, the two films are not directly connected. But Aster did recently tell Fandango that Midsommar and Hereditary do share some DNA.

Is midsummer pagan? ›

Traditionally, Midsummer was a pagan celebration of fertility and of light defeating darkness. That is still the backbone of Scandinavian Midsummer, and is evident in the method of celebration, including bonfires, feasts, and dancing.

What did they do to Connie in Midsommar? ›

We never get to see her death, even in the longer version, but it appears that Connie was drowned in the same way Bror was prepared for, perhaps in his place. It's perhaps even creepier and more unsettling that we never get to see how this really happened, even in the director's cut. Midsommar is available on Netflix.

Is Hereditary based on a true story? ›

The script reflects a real-life incident from 2004 in Marietta, Georgia, in which John Kemper Hutcherson accidentally decapitated his childhood friend and passenger, Frankie Brohm, on a telephone pole, after the latter had leaned his head from the vehicle to relieve the symptoms of his inebriation.

Is there a sequel to Hereditary? ›

The truth is that Hereditary isn't the kind of movie you'd expect to ever get a sequel: it doesn't follow the same formula as The Conjuring franchise, where every movie works as a set-up for the next entry in the series. So Hereditary 2 just wouldn't make sense, right?

What's the point of Hereditary? ›

When it comes to "Hereditary," it's Paimon who is summoned at the very end of the film, and it's revealed that Peter is his intended vessel -– a human host for Paimon to embody on Earth. That's right: After (metaphorically) going through hell and back, Peter is revealed to be the focus of the entire twisted story.

Is Hereditary part of a series? ›

Hereditary

Is Hereditary movie about schizophrenia? ›

Today, Jenn, Mike, and Lara embark on a new mental health topic by examining schizophrenia in Ari Aster's harrowing and deeply personal horror film, Hereditary. They'll discuss uncomfortable conversations, family secrets, and untreated mental illness.

What does the clicking mean in Hereditary? ›

Why does Charlie make that clicking noise? It's a tick to show that she's not 'normal' (in case the bit where she chopped a bird's head off didn't hammer that message home). The click is Paimon's tick, hence why Peter does it later; Charlie's nut allergy, on the other hand, shows the fallibility of a human host.

What happened to the girls head in Hereditary? ›

Peter took Charlie and rushed to his car and through the highway to get to the hospital as soon as possible, but Charlie's situation worsened every second. Charlie leaned out of the window for air, and as Peter swerved to avoid a deer on the road, he sideswiped a telephone pole and decapitated Charlie.

Who dug up the grandma in Hereditary? ›

7) Who put the body in the Attic? When granny's headless body turns up in the attic, audiences could be forgiven for believing Annie is the culprit. Ari Aster cleared that bit up, saying "the cult of "Paimonists" dug her up and put her there (as per grandma's instructions)."

Who possessed the mom in Hereditary? ›

So what happened? It's clear that Annie's mother was part of a cult attempting to grant Paimon a body in return for wealth and/or power. Charlie was possessed by him while the cult worked on preparing Peter's body – the male body that he prefers to inhabit. Indeed, Charlie was Paimon from the very beginning.

Why is Hereditary scary? ›

Parents need to know that Hereditary is an extremely dark, creepy horror movie with ghosts, seances, death, burned bodies, severed heads, a deadly car accident, maggots, flies, ants, blood, and scenes of rage, screaming, and panic.

What do the ants symbolize in Hereditary? ›

Symbolically, ants are drawn to death, and pigeons are messengers who sometimes carry warnings. That the pigeon appears early in the film doesn't feel coincidental.

What is the family secret in Hereditary? ›

The Graham family has been cursed by a demon passed down through generations. And when Ellen dies, Annie inherits the demon, who she passes on to her children. The cult's goal is to have a young male host to put the demon Paimon into.

What was in the middle of the road in Hereditary? ›

Charlie was most certainly not okay, and a traumatized Peter drives home with a headless Charlie in his backseat. The next morning, when Charlie's body is discovered by a screaming Annie, the film cuts to her head, in the middle of the road... collecting ants and flies in the sun.

Why is Midsommar so disturbing? ›

What Parents Need to Know. Parents need to know that Midsommar is an extremely violent horror movie from the maker of Hereditary. It involves a sinister, ages-old ceremony that includes disturbing rituals. Characters are beaten and smashed, and bodies are cut up and burned (in some cases, alive).

Will Midsommar give me nightmares? ›

'Midsommar' Is The Next 'Hereditary' & It Will Give You Nightmares | Hit Network.

Is Hereditary one of the scariest movies? ›

Now a new study from GIGACalculator.com has confirmed that Hereditary is, scientifically speaking, the scariest film of all time. To do that, they asked 150 brave souls to watch a selection of noted horror films for the first time, while wearing a heart rate tracker to monitor their pulse.

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