Ari Aster has, as the Swedish might say, bollar. Look it up and I suspect you’ll agree. His sophomore effort Midsommar is another cult movie. I don’t mean that in the traditional sense of a picture outside the mainstream that has a devoted following, but that applies too. Aster makes stuff about actual cults and the rituals they participate in. He makes horror movies without the jump scares we’ve grown accustomed to. That applied to his debut Hereditary, which stuck with me more powerfully post credits than this did. Midsommar sometimes fails at the delicate line of laughing at it rather than being creeped out by it. I can’t help but be impressed at the filmmaker’s gusto for trying, however.
Just as in Hereditary, the storyline is focused on grief and a lead female character experiencing it. College student Dani (Florence Pugh) is dealing with a horrific tragedy involving her mentally unbalanced sister and a murder suicide that tears her world apart. Boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) seems ill equipped to console her. A mysterious trip to a remote commune in Sweden to decompress seems to be as viable a distraction as any. So off they go with Christian’s roommate Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), who grew up in the far off location. They’re joined by other flat mates Josh (William Jackson Harper), who is centering his thesis on the excursion and the constantly vaping Mark (Will Poulter), who seemingly just thinks he’s in for a fun summer getaway. Not even a little bit.
Bizarre sex, hallucinogenic drugs, and disturbing deaths involving rocks roll before our often unbelieving eyes over the next two and a half hours. That’s a lot of running time to spend with these demented country folk. Aster has no qualms about slowing things down and daring us to take it all in. The scenery is beautiful. This is a rare horror film that basks in the daylight. There’s no darkness to shroud the rather infrequent gore.
Midsommar is ultimately about Dani dealing with her stages of grief and stages of a relationship on the fritz. Pugh proves herself up to the task in displaying the range of emotions that the role requires. Reynor has to bare a lot as well, both literally and figuratively. No performance quite rises to the impeccable work of Toni Collette in Hereditary. There are sequences that do succeed in giving us a severe sense of the heebie jeebies. Perhaps the most garishly impressive is early when we witness Dani’s family disbandment.
I suspect Midsommar will find its cult of admirers who declare it brilliant. Others will refuse to buy into what it’s selling. There are stretches where it’s a challenge to accept Dani and Christian wouldn’t have just headed for the hills when they realized what they were getting themselves involved in. I’m more middle of the road when considering its overall impact and that’s at least a couple notches below where Aster’s first cult flick grabbed my attention.
Arriving smack dab in Hollywood’s version of midsummer is Ari Aster’s Midsommar next week. The horror pic is the filmmaker’s sophomore effort after his critically acclaimed debut Hereditary from last summer. Centered around a pair of couples who attend a mysterious Swedish festival that occurs every 90 years, the creepy flick stars Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, and Will Poulter.
Like Hereditary, Aster’s follow-up has garnered strong critical reaction with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%. Last June, Hereditary started off with $13.5 million with an eventual $44 million domestic gross. Reviewers liked it more than audiences did and word of mouth suggests that could apply to Midsommar.
It’s out on Wednesday to capitalize on the long July 4th holiday frame. A potential comp could be 2014’s DeliverUsFromEvil, another scary title that opened over the same weekend. Evil took in nearly $10 million for the traditional Friday to Sunday period with $15 million when adding Wednesday and Thursday. I’ll say Midsommar falls a bit under those numbers.
Midsommar opening weekend prediction: $7.8 million (Friday to Sunday); $13.2 million (Wednesday to Sunday)
For my Spider–Man: FarFromHome prediction, click here:
Midsommar is director Ari Aster’s eagerly awaited follow-up to his acclaimed debut Hereditary from last year. The filmmaker stays in the horror genre for this tale of two couples visiting a mysterious Swedish festival that only occurs every 90 years. Cult like scares follow.
The pic has screened ahead of its July 5 stateside bow and critics are once again singing Aster’s praises. It stands at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, while some reviews point out audience reaction could be quite mixed (like his first effort).
This particular genre is usually ignored by Oscar voters. A groundswell of support began to gather in 2018 for Toni Collette’s lead role in Hereditary. The female lead here, Florence Pugh, has also gotten raves for her work. Yet if Collette couldn’t get in, it probably doesn’t bode well for this lead actress. Furthermore, Lupita Nyong’o could garner attention for her work earlier in 2019 for Jordan Peele’s sophomore flick Us.
Bottom line: if Hereditary couldn’t get on the Academy’s radar, don’t expect Midsommar to do so. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Labor Day weekend brings the sci-fi pic Kin, which hopes to bring in a family and teen audience that have had plenty to see this summer. It’s not based on a YA novel, but it could pass as such an adaptation. That may not be great news as the genre seems to be dwindling.
Jonathan and Josh Baker direct with a cast including Jack Reynor, Myles Truitt, Zoe Kravitz, Carrie Coon, Dennis Quaid, and James Franco as a crime lord (the guy is certainly eclectic).
The Lionsgate release seems to be flying well under the radar and the Labor Day release date doesn’t inspire much confidence in its prospects. This is typically a slow time of year on the box office calendar and I’m getting a bit of a DarkestMinds vibe here.
That means I foresee a holiday debut in the mid single digits.
Kin opening weekend prediction: $3.9 million (Friday to Monday estimate)
This Friday, British action-comedy Free Fire hits theaters stateside after it’s already premiered in the U.K. Ben Wheatley’s effort debuted last fall at the Toronto Film Festival to decent buzz and it stands at 81% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Oscar winner Brie Larson (fresh off Kong: Skull Island) headlines along with Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, and Jack Reynor.
While the pic may garner some interest from fanboys based on its mostly positive word of mouth, the marketing campaign for Free Fire has been minimal. I don’t yet have a theater count for it, which makes this prediction a little tough (and I could revise it when that count is revealed).
Regardless, I see a low opening here and it’s best hope is likely gaining a cult following once it’s release for home viewing.
Free Fire opening weekend prediction: $2.3 million