Jordan Peele and Ari Aster both had run away success with their directorial debuts, the films in question – Get Out and Hereditary – becoming much lauded horror classics. Both directors have returned this year, Peele with the doppelganger Us and Aster with the cultish Midsommar (no Detective Barnaby in sight).
American university student Dani (Florence Pugh), her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his mates get invited to fellow student Pelle’s (Vilhelm Blomgren) home, a remote Swedish commune. In this cut off, Pagan-esque community a festival that happens every 90 years is about to take place and Christian’s mate Josh (William Jackson Harper) wants to write about it but the second they step foot in the tranquil and verdant surrounds of the communion things very slowly start to unravel.
Distress and emotional trauma are key as Dani is suffering from family tragedy and her cold and increasingly aloof boyfriend Christian. All the while the peaceful facade of the communion fades away as the disturbing true nature of the cult reveals itself – recalling previous cult based horrors like The Wickerman and more recently Apostle. As with Hereditary Aster ramps up the tension, but this time to a maddeningly patience testing degree.
The striking use of colour adds a nice juxtaposition to the films dark and bloody core, with the disorientating camera work and the atmospheric soundtrack adding to the sense of unease. It is lovingly made but despite the hype quite predictable and extrememly slow, it crawls along at a pedestrian pace which makes it near two and a half hour run time stretch on forever. Yes it has some truly gruesome violence and some utterly bizarre ritual scenes but these arrive too late.
Nonetheless the acting is superb, no one puts a foot wrong especially Florence Pugh as the grief ridden main character, the distant and increasingly lost soul played by Jack Reynor and the quiet and conniving Vilhelm Blomgren.
Ari Aster’s disturbing second film, despite being a well crafted and superbly acted horror, is way too long, achingly slow and quite predictable.