A deeply depressing contemporary break-up movie disguised as 70s-style folk horror, this sprawling follow-up to last year’s Hereditary cements Ari Aster as the most exciting and emotionally candid emerging voice in the terror genre. Less cerebral and more visceral than its predecessor, this tale of an unhappily-in-love American couple (Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor) whose Swedish holiday turns into a drugged-out pagan nightmare relies on old-fashioned visual storytelling. Pawel Pogorzelski’s cinematography is a marvel, turning the idyllic pastoral setting (Hungary standing in for Sweden) into a central character, equal parts alluring and menacing. Perhaps the most surprising aspect is the humour – whereas Hereditary was fairly earnest, Midsommar features numerous intentional laughs and an astonishingly absurd sex scene. Throughout, Aster expertly controls the pace, building to an effective denouement that perfectly complements the insane proceedings. Hands down, one of the year’s finest films. Jared Abbott
Ari Aster was proclaimed the new master of horror after Hereditary, but some will surely be tempted to backpedal after seeing Midsommar. This sophomore effort could have been far more impactful had Aster taken some narrative risks. As it stands, nothing in this daytime nightmare will surprise or impress if you’ve seen The Wicker Man or Ben Wheatley’s underrated Kill List. Florence Pugh admittedly gives a flawless performance, but this inadvertently assures that the film nosedives after the first act, when it loosens its focus on her character’s trauma and experience of toxic relationships. It’s engaging in the moment, but its spell quickly fades. You’re left with a strangely hollow film that never hits the heights of its obvious influences. David Mouriquand
Midsommar | Directed by Ari Aster (US 2019) with Florence Pugh. Starts Sep 26.
Check our OV search engine for showtimes.