Ari Aster’s 'Midsommar': When sunny days turn into unthinkable nightmares | The Haunted Column

Florence Pugh
Florence Pugh in Midsommar. Photo: IMDb

Ari Aster’s ‘Midsommar’ is one of the most terrifying movies ever made, not due to supernatural elements or ghosts, but because of the sheer terror it instils in the audience. At its core, ‘Midsommar’ is about indoctrination, following Florence Pugh's character, Dani, as she gradually acclimates to and unwillingly accepts the rituals and culture of the Hårga.

The story centres on a cult and the bizarre events that occur within it. One of the most striking aspects of 'Midsommar' is its use of bright light, contrasting with the dark and dim shades typical of horror movies. Even Ari Aster’s 'Hereditary' employs a lot of dark lighting for its horror. However, in 'Midsommar,' the horrifying and gory scenes develop in a bright, sunlit setting. The opening scenes in the US follow a traditional horror movie pattern with dim lighting and a doomed atmosphere. But when the setting shifts to Sweden, the film transitions to a bright environment, immersing the audience in a unique form of terror. It's as if Ari Aster wanted the audience to witness the most terrifying events in broad daylight. The contrast of a sunny, warm setting turning into a nightmare is unsettling. We might think that darkness, demons, or ghosts are the most haunting elements in cinema, but through 'Midsommar,' Aster proves otherwise.

Aster also makes extensive use of full and wide shots to incorporate as much detail in each frame as possible. As well as the main characters being presented in the foreground, Aster includes various Hårga members in the backdrop. Even their moments are so detailed that the scenes on the whole become very disturbing.
'Midsommar' is not a film that is easily forgotten. After watching it, you might find yourself asking, 'What did I just see?' This reaction is likely due to the film's escalating horror. The first terrifying scene, such as the people jumping off the cliff with apparent joy, sets the tone. From there, the horror intensifies, cleverly preparing the audience for increasingly disturbing events.

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