When it comes to horror, the audience is usually, y'know, scared. Not so for the oddly paced Midsommar, the second outingfrom Hereditary filmmaker (and College of Santa Fe alum) Ari Aster. The climax comes late in the 147-minute runtime slog, and though the opening act is harrowing, the vast middle is stretched too thin, leaving in place of horror a long, grim flatline.
Our protagonist Dani (Florence Pugh) is readjusting after her entire family dies in a murder-suicide, an event barely mentioned again throughout the rest of the film after Dani's grief is established, when she learns her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his awful friends Josh (The Good Place's William Jackson Harper) and Mark (Will Poulter; Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) have planned a visit to a Swedish commune and childhood home of their fellow friend Pelle (a far more sympathetic Vilhelm Blomgren). Dani was never told of the trip, much less invited, but once the truth comes out, Christian begrudgingly invites her to the frustration of his bros.
What follows is a jumbled and uninteresting mess of bizarre pagan rituals, psychedelic drug use, people sitting quietly at picnic tables and predictable yet often inexplicably off-screen terrors. The fates of the bros are the only positive element of the film's plot, particularly as Dani is celebrated by the wacky Swedish pagans while all of her terrible traveling companions get their comeuppance one by one.
Reynor, Poulter and Harper all put on fair enough jerk performances, and Pugh's turn as the go-along-to-get-along girlfriend is convincing, but this only really manifests itself in snarky jabs with huge stretches of decidedly un-scary stuff peppered between beautiful shots of the Swedish countryside. It's an admittedly cool premise and carries that trademarked Aster style, but Midsommar is executed in a clunky fashion. Perhaps Aster has hit his sophomore slump, but we were hoping for something a little more effective and even a little terrifying. No dice.
+ Fates of jerks; the scenery
-An absolute snooze-fest; not scary
Directed by Aster
With Pugh, Reynor, Poulter and Harper
Regal 14, Violet Crown, R, 147 min.