This review contains spoilers and elements from the director’s cut. 

Ari Aster’s horror movies have a different macabre feeling to them. He doesn’t go for the conventional jump scares and often places you in these naked and unsettling emotional moments that you feel you shouldn’t be watching. Therefore, his brand of horror feels fresh and often sticks to you after the viewing has concluded – like molasses on your fingertips. At the beginning of Midsommar, you witness and hear Dani (Florence Pugh) have this guttural reaction to finding out that she’s lost all of her family. Aster extends that scene in a wide shot first automatically puts you in anxiety. Where Asher’s first film, Hereditary, is more about the manifestation of family trauma with secrets, Midsommar focuses on relationships (or lack thereof) both at a micro and macro-level.

At the center of the movie is Dani, her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), and the shaky union that they have. The director’s cut of the film dives more into the adversarial conversations that take place between them, but the entire movie shows their inability to let go of each other. Dani, going through a big preponderance of grief, tries to confide in Christian. Christian before this was trying to find a way to break up with Dani now feels like he can’t because of what happened. Going to Sweden only amplified this instead of the last-ditch effort to save whatever embers of a relationship they have.

The American group that comes to the village have their own set of individual agendas. Mark (Will Poulter) is the quintessential rude, horny tourist who has no regard for culture. Josh (William Jackson Harper) who goes on the trip in part for a college project is inquisitive to a fault. The interactions that take place between Christian and Josh are telling because they further reveal Christian’s rather selfish nature. It increasingly manifests whenever he tries to show an effort to comfort Dani. However, Aster uses physical distance to show how far the couple drifts from one another. When Dani and Christian have their biggest fight, they aren’t near each other at the height of it. As the movie goes on and Dani becomes more ingratiated with the Harga, this becomes even more apparent.

Because of their divisions and ignorance, they are easily splintered and meet their untimely ends promptly and violently. Someone like Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) infiltrates the group and leads them to a dreamy, sunny nightmare. Aster uses viewpoints through hallucinogenic means to either have you question the validity of what you’re seeing or to enhance things in plain sight. He also frames a lot of discussions where characters’ backs are turned so you can see reactions.

On a grander level, you have the Harga. They have the ultimate understanding of family and what they consider the greater good. Every 90-year cycle, the community does rituals just out of pattern rather than questioning them or gaining anything. While the movie borrows pieces of The Wicker Man, this point deviates from it. There is no harvest to be had to some God that rewards them for sacrifice. It’s out of pure obligation and repetition of legacy to each other. The horror of Midsommar mostly occurs in the daytime, where everything is supposed to feel safe. Cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski juxtaposes the beautiful landscape of Hälsingland, a land untouched by the outside world, and slowly unravels the terrifying mystery within – whether it be through ancient drawings or ominous structures.

Dani’s journey throughout the film is where she slowly, but surely finds her voice. This is all rooted in finding her tribe. Halfway through the film, there’s a role reversal. Dani is lifted up in love by the community and Christian molds into just a means to an end for the cult. A full circle irony that the lady that none of the men wanted to come on the trip ended up surving with more support than what she came in the end. The women of the Harga literally become the extension of her feelings that are bursting to get out. Christian’s total discontent for his friends and sub-par effort to make an actual choice in the relationship leads to his ultimate demise.

Midsommar is either a fairy tale of ending a union that no longer serves your well-being or a descent into madness. It just depends on what view you hold. ‘Fire Temple,’ composed by Bobby Krlic, paired with the tired smile of Dani encompasses the whole movie. Within the beauty of the setting, there’s something very, very wrong here – in order for renewal to happen, something else has to perish.