Horror stays dark despite the light of "Midsommar" in a new film featuring colorful flowers, flowing white costumes and lots of bright sun. Set in an isolated Swedish commune, "Midsommar" comes from writer-director Ari Aster, who made a splash last year with his first movie, "Heredity," featuring creepy images that stick in the brain. Aster continues that flair with "Midsommar," bringing together a group of four American grad students curious about the rituals in their Swedish friend's homeland. But rather than focus on education, filmmaker Aster goes back to horror roots found in classics like "The Wicker Man" and "Rosemary's Baby."
Those films cover the basics of the sub-genre, so Aster finds little new to offer in terms of story. His twists come with specifics; instead of "The Wicker Man's" island or Rosemary's apartment complex, Aster uses a large meadow surrounded by forest. No familiar face like "Wicker Man's" Christopher Lee or "Rosemary's" Ruth Gordon haunts the site, but it appears ominous enough despite the airy renaissance garb of its inhabitants.
Signs of trouble come almost immediately with a requirement that visitors take hallucinogenic drugs sending them on weird trips — not enough to scare them or make them turn back, but a hint that perhaps they made a really bad choice about their summer vacation destination.
Swedish tourism officials have no reason to fear however; most of the movie filmed in Hungary. Plus, horror rarely hurts tourism. Some fans still search out "Wicker Man" locations in Scotland. Others see some of the movie's influence every year in Nevada at Burning Man — though founders always denied any connection. Meanwhile, "Rosemary's Baby" boasts a unique trait as one of the few movies to film at Manhattan's Dakota Apartment Building, a facility that never encouraged visitors since it already draws unwanted attention because of its rich and famous residents.
But while Wicker Man and Rosemary's Baby qualify as horror classics that generate passionate followings, "Midsommar" comes on those movies' heels without the same ability to shock or surprise. Still, director Aster goes beyond the basics of cheap horror with his impressive visual style, featuring clever compositions and striking cinematography. This provides enough seasoning to make "Midsommer" a tasty treat for horror fans.
This review was originally aired on 7/17/2019.
You can listen to it online at https://www.kunr.org/post/midsommar#stream/0