9:41am PT by Richard Newby
'Midsommar' Looks Like a Terrifying Companion Piece to 'Hereditary'
“You’re going to love it.” At least that’s what the new teaser trailer for Ari Aster’s Midsommar promises. Last year, Aster and A24 shocked audiences with Hereditary, a horror film that proved both divisive and unforgettable. For Midsommar, Aster returns to the horror genre with an entirely new, though no less eerie, aesthetic. Centered on a couple, Christian (Jack Reynor) and Dani (Florence Pugh), who travel to Sweden to visit their friend’s hometown, summer festivities steadily devolve into the arcane and occult. Like Aster’s previous film, Midsommar appears to be invested in pagan rituals, and illuminates how ancient traditions affect our modern society and relationships. There is, thankfully, little to be gleaned from the teaser and Aster pulls us in with striking and startling imagery, and a sinister tone hiding just under the idyllic setting. Although plot specifics are being carefully guarded, there’s reason to suspect that Midsommar will make for a terrifying companion piece to Hereditary.
Hereditary focuses on interior spaces. From cars, meeting rooms, homes, treehouses and miniatures, there is always a sense of being surrounded. Aster carefully built up the spaces in that film, keeping his characters confined to them and defined by them. These interior spaces, often shadowy and left obscured by camera angles, could be seen as metaphors for the minds of the Graham family as they dealt with grief, and the nature of the insights and ailments passed down through blood. Midsommar, on the other hand, seems to be focus on exterior and natural spaces. The trailer, like Hereditary’s, begins with its characters in miniature, suggesting the insurmountable nature of the space around them. But what follows is a tour of scenic landscapes and open spaces that become obstructed by rows of people and close-up shots of faces, suggesting confinement similar to that of Hereditary, even if the surroundings have changed.
Aster repeatedly described Hereditary as a family drama foremost. It is inarguably a horror movie, but a significant amount of that horror comes from the elevated familial dynamics the film presents. With that approach in mind, and Aster’s ability to see horror as something adjacent to his central narrative interests, Midsommar will likely explore relationships on another level. Based on the plot synopsis, we’re potentially in for a film that deals with romantic relationships and friendships, both of which will undoubtedly become messy as Midsommar games reveal darker intentions. The film also seems female-centric, suggested both by the inhabitant of the Swedish homestead and the paintings that adorn the walls and ceilings of the houses and barns. Hereditary was female-centric too, though Midsommar feels like it’s approaching gender from a different angle. While Hereditary was founded in traits that were based down, Midsommar appears to be focused on traits that we pick up from our social circles, perhaps commenting on the homogeny that tends to happen within close friend groupings.
The teaser for Midsommar doesn’t just leave itself open to comparisons to Hereditary, but also to Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973). It’s worth noting that comparisons to classic horror were also made during Hereditary’s marketing cycle, with that film being compared to The Exorcist (1973) and Don’t Look Now (1973). While those surface level comparisons caught on, Aster revealed in the "making of" featurette for Hereditary that he was most inspired by Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976) and Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989). It’s easy to see those comparisons in hindsight, especially when considering Aster’s camera angles and blocking, but neither film would have immediately come to mind upon initial viewing. We suspect that Midsommar will find itself in a similar situation, with The Wicker Man comparisons only providing a surface level entry point for horror influences that run deeper and suggest a far more interesting understanding of the genre’s ability to influence.
We’ve barely seen anything from Midsommar yet, and already it feels like it’s going to be one of the year’s most interesting and unforgettable films. With so many layers to dig through from the teaser alone, the film itself holds the promise of taking us down, down, down into some uncomfortable revelations that will once again test our understanding of the genre and what we choose to emphasize within our modern relationships.
Midsommar opens Aug. 9.