Mushrooms, May Queens, a never-setting sun, and … about 150 other, much more terrifying things. Welcome to Midsommar, Ari Aster’s followup to Hereditary about a grieving American, her awful boyfriend, his awful friends, and a trip to rural Sweden to celebrate the solstice with a small, tight-knit commune. Enough setup—let’s just get to the burning bear.
1. What is your tweet-length review of Midsommar?
Donnie Kwak: Be careful who you trip with.
Justin Sayles: A visually gorgeous, ambitious film that lands just short of its mark—but never falls off a cliff.
saw midsommar and now all i wanna do is take psychedelics while wearing a floral smock— Kate Knibbs (@Knibbs) June 25, 2019
Alison Herman: Employers, don’t read this; readership of The Ringer, hello: This was the most accurate depiction of shrooming I’ve ever seen on film?!
i just realized that Midsommar is just Swedish Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory— Andrew Gruttadaro (@andrewgrutt) June 24, 2019
Miles Surrey: Dirtbag boyfriends across the globe are shook.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) pic.twitter.com/RxuJCm8aGv— Kjerstin Johnson (@kajerstin) July 5, 2019
2. What was the best moment of the movie?
Gruttadaro: The most effective, most perilously unforgettable moment of the movie is the voluntary suicide ritual; the most enjoyable moments were Will Poulter as a peak American fuccboi.
Kwak: The ritual suicide of the elderly couple is when the film’s building sense of dread turns into actual terror. Also, the cliff is so beautiful!
Surrey: It’s not a single moment so much as a comically slow realization from the tourists that something strange is going on with the Hårga. Most people would’ve seen the archaic attestupa ritual and run for the hills—like the English couple smartly tried to do—but the Americans mostly brush it off as “LOL, Swedish convents are weird, amirite?!” Ignorance ain’t bliss: It’ll get your body stuffed inside a bear.
Knibbs: I really loved the depiction of what it’s like to do mushrooms, when they freak out about a “new person.” All of the comedic parts were really fun, and even though the film is long, I wanted to spend more time with the dysfunctional academics before they started getting murdered.
Johnson: The all-women scream fest. Dani—who knew, on some level, that her boyfriend was trash at that point—still couldn’t handle what she saw in the chapel. When she left, screaming and in tears, her Hårga handmaidens streamed after her, protecting her while enabling and encouraging her feelings. She was repulsed at first but then gave in, overcome with emotion. The scene of them all wailing at once, on the floor, was cathartic, amazing, and possibly the happiest moment in the film.
Herman: Midsommar rightfully belongs to Florence Pugh, but Jack Reynor’s comic timing is essential to making his sad-sack character, and a movie driven by his utter passivity, work. His laconic, resigned delivery of “I think I ate one of her pubic hairs” is a huge laugh line; it’s also the perfect expression of the frog-in-boiling-water mentality Ari Aster instills in both his characters and his audience. At this point in the movie, love spells and bodily fluids just kind of make sense together. Why not just roll with it?
Sayles: After watching Dani lose everything and suffer through an unsupportive relationship with a checked-out Christian, it’s hard not to vote for the moment at the end when she looks finally at peace.
3. What was your least favorite part of the film?
Sayles: Maybe this makes me as bad as Josh, but I really wanted to know more about the book and the character who was drawing it.
Gruttadaro: Just on a visceral level, the opening sequence.
Surrey: Regardless of context, I don’t like seeing animals get hurt—and it’s not like that poor bear pissed on the Hårga ancestral tree!
Herman: You know, I don’t love the way horror directors continue to use disability to show how CREEPY and WEIRD someone is. The Elephant Man was almost 40 years ago! Let’s act like it!
Kwak: Dani’s bad trip upon arrival in Sweden was nearly as unsettling as Pelle’s eminently punchable face.
Knibbs: The close-ups of bloodied body parts.
4. What was the grossest part of the movie?
Knibbs: The close-ups of bloodied body parts.
Gruttadaro: Realizing what that giant mallet was for as an old man lay wailing after his attempted suicide was … difficult.
Sayles: Woke me wants to say watching Christian, Josh, and Mark playing American bulls (bears?) in the Swedish China shop. Truthful me knows it’s the goddamn head-splitting scene.
Kwak: The guy wearing Mark’s skinned face; also, whatever it is they did to torture flower-eyed Simon. BTW, did they ever show what happened to Connie? Give me the director’s cut!
Johnson: Obviously when Dani and Christian had an argument and she ended up apologizing to him even though he was the asshole. Yuck.
Surrey: More uncomfortable than gross, but Christian’s psychedelic mating ritual was probably one of the most unsettling sex scenes I’ve ever watched. You genuinely hated to see it.
Herman: The completely realistic fight in Dani’s apartment was honestly more gruesome than anything that followed. When SHE ends up apologizing to HIM! Brutal.
5. Which member of the group of outsiders are you?
Kwak: Yikes, I guess I’d have to be Mark the vaper—but I’m pretty conscientious about when and where I pee.
Gruttadaro: I am the British guy watching a person jump off a cliff and being like FUCK THIS.
Sayles: As someone who frequently finds himself in trouble for taking principled, ultimately pointless stands, I relate completely to the British guy.
Herman: I’m Josh, the passive-aggressive friend who doesn’t say boo about my friend’s flagrant shortcomings as a partner but absolutely loses their shit when those same issues start to affect my professional life.
Knibbs: As much as I’d like to wear Dani’s flower outfit, I’m probably Josh because I love research!!!
6. Which ritual would you most like to participate in, and why?
Sayles: The correct answer is anything but the mating ritual.
Johnson: I think I would want a role in the cult that didn’t involve self-immolation or murder but still showed I was a team player. So maybe pulling around the May Queen carriage.
Kwak: It’d be weird to say the impregnation ritual, right? Right? OK, then: maypole dancing it is.
Gruttadaro: Honestly, getting high and dancing in a circle for a while on a nice summer day sounds pretty cool.
Surrey: I’d skip on the blood eagle, voyeuristic sex ritual, and attestupa cliff jump and roll with the demon-warding dance-off, which looked like fun! Just remember to fall to the ground before you win the thing, otherwise you’ll be covered in flowers and forced to decide whether you want to incinerate your shitty partner in Swedish hellfire. (There are easier ways to dump someone.)
Knibbs: I think I would have thrived in the dance competition because I have a sturdy center of gravity and a fairly high tolerance for hallucinogens.
Herman: I’m not sure whether this counts as a ritual, but I’d love to learn what they put in those cute little hand pies besides pubic hair. Put me in the kitchen!
7. Where does Midsommar rank in the canon of breakup movies?
Herman: It’s no Kramer vs. Kramer, but the wish fulfillment of zipping an ex into a bear carcass and setting him on fire rockets it to the upper quartile.
Knibbs: I’d put it in front of The Break-Up and just behind Annie Hall.
Sayles: It’s somehow less traumatizing than Blue Valentine.
Johnson: It’s a natural corollary to Legally Blonde.
Surrey: If the purpose of a breakup movie is to give someone the motivation to cut the cord on a toxic relationship, put Midsommar at the top of the list.
Kwak: The pregnant silence that follows Christian’s admission to his crew that he invited his girl on a boys’ trip is so perfect. That’s my answer.
8. Ari Aster has described Midsommar as a companion piece to Hereditary. How would you compare it with his first film?
Sayles: There are definite similarities between the two—from both movies’ leads suffering an unthinkable loss in the first act to the rituals that propel each plot. And if you squint, both are about regaining a family after losing the one you knew. But Midsommar is a much brighter film—both visually and thematically—even if it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor.
Surrey: They’re both intimately connected to grief, trauma, and the damaging ways people try to heal from them. That being said, I much prefer Midsommar because it’s (A) shockingly funny and (B) much more cathartic for its lead character, who doesn’t slice off her own head with piano wire.
Johnson: Midsommar was very funny in a way I don’t remember Hereditary being (granted, I watched the latter petrified, through my fingers), and I’m already crafting strategies for how to get my horror-averse friends to watch.
Herman: Midsommar is less thematically ambitious than Hereditary, which makes it more successful. Unlike its predecessor, the movie doesn’t really try to use Dani’s loss to make a grand statement about trauma or grieving; it just amps up Dani’s distress and explains her decision to go full native. I’m all in on Aster making a very straightforward “cult rituals wild, shitty dudes bad” movie, and compensating for that simplicity with some truly incredible production, sound, and costume design. I’d honestly be happy with two hours of close-ups on those barn walls.
9. After seeing Midsommar, are psychedelic drugs completely off the table?
Surrey: I had an edible this weekend, so probably not.
Herman: They seemed to work out pretty well for Dani in the end!
Kwak: The lesson here is to never consume them if you don’t fully consent to partaking or feel even slightly uncomfortable with your environment and your fellow trippers. When in doubt, do nothing!
Sayles: Spending nine drugged-out days with Hårga seems only slightly more horrifying than the time some guy in my dorm sold me mushrooms and then made me watch a Phish bootleg.
Gruttadaro: IDK—just don’t pee on the ancestral tree of your supplier and everything should be chill, right?
Johnson: Let’s not blame a bad trip when a bad boyfriend (and, OK, a criminal pagan cult) is the real problem.