First and foremost, I’d like to welcome everyone back! It’s been a while since I wrote anything that was longer than a couple of sentences, but I am happy to announce that Stardust & Silver Linings is officially up and running once again. I hope everyone is staying safe and doing everything they can to look out for one another during this trying time. There is a long list of posts coming up, but we will be starting back up with Midsommar, the 2019 folk horror film that seemed to take everyone by surprise.
If you have not watched the film, and are still planning on it, the following review does contain plenty of spoilers, so keep that in consideration if you decide to continue reading.
Centered around Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh), a psychology student who is dealt a great amount of trauma within the first 10 minutes of the film. Her sister Terri kills herself and their parents by filling their home with carbon monoxide after leaving a rather bleak email. The email in question is what led Dani to call her boyfriend Christian Hughes (Jack Reynor) whom she is shown to emotionally lean on, but he is distant and rather cold. While she is concerned that she is leaning on him far too much and is going to be the reason he ends up leaving her, he is talking to his friends to whom he has been apparently ranting to about her for the past year. As it turns out, Christian, and his group of friends comprised of Mark (Will Poulter) and Josh (William Jackson Harper) have been invited back to Pelle’s (Vilhelm Blomgren) home, the Hårga, in Hälsingland to celebrate midsummer. From the jump, the movie’s plot is practically screaming “Cult!” to me, and this feeling only gets stronger when we finally arrive at the Hårga, and it’s picturesque surroundings only add to my suspicions. Upon their arrival, they meet Simon (Archie Madekwe) and Connie (Ellora Torchia), who were brought to the commune by Ingemar (Hampus Hallberg). The group witness a disturbing scene that revolves around two of the commune elders, who have presumably met the age of 72, commiting suicide by jumping off a cliff; as is the custom among the commune. It’s rightfully, a traumatizing experience that prompts Connie and Simon to make a plan to leave the commune.
When Connie meets Dani to say her goodbyes, she is told by a member of the commune that Simon has gone ahead of her due to their only being two spots in the truck, but that he will be waiting for her at the train station. Outraged, she walks off and we don’t see her again. Mark, who is coined as the group jerk, makes the mistake of peeing on the ancestral tree, and during the following meal, he is escorted away by a beautiful woman and we don’t see him again either. It was Josh who wanted to come on this trip in the first place, due to wanting to write his thesis on midsummer, which he ends up narrowing down to the Hårga specifically. He is given access to look at their sacred text, as long as he does not take any photos of the pages—he agrees and all is well. That is, until he sneaks into the building and proceeds to take pictures of the text, only to be killed by someone wearing Mark’s face. Pelle has been making the moves on Dani, asking her whether she felt loved by Christian, and this seems to break something loose within her because she makes a jab at Christian later.
Dani chooses to participate in a dance competition to find out who the May Queen would be, and she wins and is given the opportunity to sit at the head of the table at the next feast. She is led away to bless the crops and the harvest, and we witness as Christian goes to meet Maja (Isabelle Grill) after being given more drugs, and the two end up having sex. The sex in itself is a disturbing idea, because the sole purpose is to impregnate Maja, but what made the scene all the more uncomfortable to watch was that it all takes place in a room filled with a dozen naked women varying in age, as they mimic the sounds that are being made. Dani finds him, and he later comes to his senses and tries to make a run for it, only to discover Josh’s leg planted in a flowerbed, and Simon’s body in a barn. He is then paralyzed by one of the elders.
Everything really comes to a boil when it is explained to Dani that in order to purge the commune of evil, they decide to offer up nine humans as sacrifice. The first four victims being Simon, Connie, Mark and Josh. While the next four victims are all from the commune, the two elders from earlier, as well as two volunteers; Ingemar and Ulf (Henrik Norlén). As May Queen, it is Dani’s responsibility to choose the final sacrifice, and she can choose between Christian or a local villager, and in the end, she chooses Christian. He is then stuffed into a disemboweled brown bear’s body and placed in a wooden temple alongside the other sacrifices. The temple is set on fire and we watch as flames engulf him and the others, all the while the other commune members are celebrating by mimicking the screams. The camera pans to Dani, and we watch as her face morphs from horror into a smile, accompanied by a distant look in her eyes. She feels purged of her sins.
I knew that this movie was going to leave me uncomfortable, given the myriad of people who claimed as much last year when it came out. It reminded me of Mother! (2017) due to the shock value that came with it, as well as the abundance of realistic-looking gore. Florence Pugh was phenomenal from the beginning, with a heart-wrenching scene where she is shown sobbing as a result of hearing the news of her family. Her performance, as well as the performance of Reynor really stood out to me, because they had to do a lot of the heavy lifting. The two of them, both united and in separate scenes, are dealing with a lot of intense themes and they both handle this responsibility really well. There is no denying that the movie is about a cult, but what made it interesting to me is that we don’t see Dani ever warm up to the idea of what the Hårga is, until the end when it seems she goes through her own version of an enlightenment. Throughout the film, she is repulsed at practically all of the customs, but in the end, she is shown to be smiling, as though relieved. The reason for this could be that Christian was a burden on her, and she freed herself of him, thus this idea of purging.
Another actor that I thought did really well was Blomgren, because he does a really good job of portraying Pelle as the well-natured friend who is simply enthusiastic about sharing his culture. Even in the end, we don’t see him at the forefront of the movie anymore, showing that he isn’t a leader by any means, he was doing what he felt was his right and his responsibility. It would have been interesting to see him talk to Dani after she chooses Christian, but I think ending the film by focusing on Dani’s face was far more impactful. The movie left me just as disturbed as Mother! did, with the main difference being that I actually understood what was happening during Midsommar. It was really well done, and definitely deserved all the recognition it has received in the past year. As far as I know, this is the only folk horror film that I’ve ever seen, but if any of you have any recommendations for other films in this category, do let me know!
Have you guys watched the film? What did you think of it? Let me know down below! As always, don’t be afraid to leave movie or show recommendations down below in the comments.