While I was waiting for my screening of Midsommar to start I checked Twitter to pass the time. One of the last things I read before the movie started was someone saying that they’d loved Hereditary (director Ari Aster’s previous feature) but that the Midsommar script, which leaked online in March, was terrible.
Not the best thing to read before a movie starts, but as the film itself would go on to make abundantly clear, reading a script without seeing the movie can be like reading the lyrics to a song without the music. How much do you get from “Hey now you’re an all-star (6x)” on the page? That goes double for an Ari Aster movie, where, say, Toni Collette’s face alone says more so much more than words alone. Aster’s singularly bold depictions of the horrific and novel compositions do far more for his films than plotting alone. In an era when virtually every shot has been done, it’s rare that Aster’s ever feel like a reference or an homage or a copy.
That’s doubly impressive in Midsommar, which manages to feel entirely like a movie unto itself even as it’s so heavily influenced by Wicker Man that it basically qualifies as “a riff on Wicker Man.” If there was pressure to repeat Hereditary, Aster seems to have consciously gone the opposite direction, trading claustrophobic interiors for gauzy vistas and saturated florals.
Florence Pugh plays Dani, and in so many ways she’s an atypical horror heroine — neither damsel nor ingenue nor Joss Whedonian hot tough girl. She’s more like the girl next to you wearing a hoodie to a morning lecture. Pugh’s palpable humanity is peculiarly useful for Aster, in that he can put her in the most bizarre and extreme situations and she still seems familiar.