Saturday, November 25, 2023

Midsommar and Florence Pugh give me cultish nightmares

It's been a long time since I had nightmares after watching a film, but it happened last night after I watched 2019's Midsommar. 

Florence Pugh starred in what I recently said was the worst movie I've seen in the past year, and in some ways Don't Worry Darling has some of the same overly suspenseful vibes as Midsommar. But where that one was boring and not profound, this psychological horrorfest is just the opposite.

Pugh stars as a young woman trying to recover from a monumental family tragedy. Her boyfriend, played by Jack Reynor, is a jerk and not much help on her path towards psychological recovery. That is when a friend invites them and four other friends to a Swedish nine-day festival that only happens once every 90 years. That is one of many pieces of the plot that have been nagging on me; how could these people at the festival seem so deeply entwined with their activities if this is something that essentially only happens once in a lifetime? I'm not sure if it's nonsensical or whether that just makes the movie even more eerily compelling.

Midsommar could almost be called something other than a horror movie. There aren't really monsters per se. The scenery is beautiful, usually bright and sunny. But the imagery and rituals along the way and the audience's questions as to why the characters do what they do are deep, puzzling, and often very unsettling.

I love studies of cults and the ways some people take advantage over others who are vulnerable, which the Midsommar cult does with Pugh's character. She ties the movie together and proves why she is a real movie star. Her ending moment is classic and makes you wonder if she has found a way to erase her pain, no matter how awful that path may be. It definitely makes me want to see some of her other recent vehicles, including Oppenheimer, Little Women, and A Good Person.

5 out of 5 stars

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