The 2010s was such an incredible decade for first-time directors in the horror genre. Jennifer Kent with The Babadook (2014); David Robert Mitchell with It Follows (2014); Robert Eggers with The Witch (2015); S. Craig Zahler with Bone Tomahawk (2015); Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz with Goodnight Mommy (2015); and Ari Aster with Hereditary (2018). Somehow shaking the sophomore slump that so many creative people are cursed with, these filmmakers were able to rally and release something just as good as (and sometimes better than) their first outing.
With Midsommar, Ari Aster tossed most of the horror tropes we’ve grown so tired of out the window (he was never really a subscriber anyway). Midsommar takes place primarily in the bright light of day, and all murders occur offscreen. We only get to see the aftermath, and it isn’t pretty. He starts the film with an illustration that, if studied closely, reveals the entire story he’s about to tell. The visual tone of the film is very bright and washed-out, which makes the moments of violence all the more shocking and disturbing. Blood has never looked so… bloody. Once again, Ari has filled his film with an assortment of easter eggs and subliminal clues, none of which are required to enjoy the film but make the experience all the more engrossing.
I can’t explain why, but while Hereditary was definitely the bleaker film, I walked away from Midsommar feeling… ickier. I really believe this is due in large part to the stark contrast between the visual style of the film and the violence. When something terrible does happen, the camera doesn’t shy away. There are no quick, apologetic shots of gore. When the man leaps from the cliff and lands on his feet, we get a clear, personal, up-close view of the aftermath, and boy is that a striking visual.
Like so many others, I cannot wait to see what else Ari Aster has to share with us.