This is another one of the films I had been looking forward to seeing since it came out and got such great reviews. Anyone that listens to the podcast, however, knows that when we reviewed Hereditary, we were not especially nice to it. There is a new type of highly stylized horror along those lines and The Witch, which we were also not very kind to, that has left me feeling like the directors have been going for style over substance. It was my hope that going into this one that I would be pleasantly surprised instead of feeling like the odd man out for not getting on the bandwagon.
The story follows our main character Dani as she goes through some serious life altering transformations. The first is the death of her family and the reliance upon her boyfriend. Then, she is brought along on a trip to Sweden to participate in a festival that her friend Pelle told her and her friends about. If you’ve seen The Wicker Man or went in knowing it was a horror movie at all, you can probably tell that things with the Swedish commune’s Midsummer festival aren’t going to just be feasting and dancing. While the plot and outcome itself is not particularly novel; the big draw to this is the way in which events play out and what it means for Dani.
SPOILERS: It would be hard to discuss the reasons that this movie was good without going into a few of the actual plot points. So much of this is about the coming to terms with loss and the death of family while also being able to find new life and a new found family. Dani is forced to see an elderly couple give their lives, forcing her to confront the buried emotions about the suicide of her sister and loss of her parents. Even as her “friends” that spent much of the early part of the movie talking about her behind her back are taken out for their disrespect of the culture; she is invited in and they share in her pain and make her one of them in a new family. Her choosing of her boyfriend to die symbolizes the last vestiges of her old life being burnt away and cleansed. It is painful but it is also a renewal. END SPOILERS
I can’t help but echo some of the things I mentioned about Color out of Space from yesterday’s review. This movie does such a wonderful job of blending the beautiful and the grotesque. Even just the transition from the beginning of the film where it is night time, raining, or gray all the time to the always bright and clean aesthetics of the commune helps to establish a theme of transformation that will be used throughout. The sweet, harmonic singing that accompanies so many gruesome scenes makes the events yet more jarring and somehow perhaps even more horrifying because of the way that they are treated.
Sadly, one thing that I could not stand is something that seems to be a trend in the new horror films that I mentioned at the beginning. Namely, the use of sound that is supposed to be jarring but mostly comes off as annoying. I had to turn on subtitles because the dialogue was so quiet but then it would play any kind of music and it would be so loud as to blow your eardrums out. Also, the constant use of LOUD MUSIC and then sudden complete silence is an ok trick to bring out once in a while but it feels like this and so many others have been leaning on that as a crutch. I don’t want it to become the new “screeching violins when someone opens/closes a cabinet” of horror.
I definitely enjoyed this much more than Hereditary or The Witch, though that isn’t really saying much. I think the themes and visuals overall came together much better and clearer in this one and the ending felt much more satisfying.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5