When I first learned about the movie Midsommar, I was excited to see it, but I was skeptical that it would be another modern rewritten and renamed reproduction of the Wicker Man. I’m not talking about the 2006 abomination starring Nicolas Cage. That was awful. I’m talking about that original 1973 British masterpiece starring Edward Woodward, and Christopher Lee.
Unfortunately, it was just a rewritten Wicker Man, and not good one.
The plot is very simple. An exchange student from Sweden decides to take some of his American college buddies home to take part in the Midsummer festival in Hårga, a reclusive Swedish commune. After a long, drawn out and obvious setup, Hårga is revealed to be a murderous, psychedelic-infused pagan cult as the guests start disappearing one by one, culminating in a grand holocaust at the end. In and of itself, as a Wicker Man rip-off that sounds like it has some promise.
Midsommar failed on every level. The movie just didn’t make any sense and was full of plot holes and consistency errors, but the worst part was the awful pacing that rolled along like cold molasses. Scene after scene was just long, slow and drawn out, I suppose intended to create suspense, but instead created boredom.
If you could keep conscious through the slowest scenes, then you had to struggle through the lack of a compelling narrative. Once the main cast arrives in Hårga they indulge in eating psilocybin mushrooms, as is the custom of the village, and from then forward the cinematography is filled with psychedelic visuals rather than strong and original plot points. Actually that was the best part because other than visually, Midsommar also failed to deliver any psychedelic sensation thematically or philosophically. It was all just superficial like so much else in Midsommar.
The neo-pagan cult of Hårga was also poorly developed. There was no sense of a convincing philosophy at work that could compel a community to collectively engage in mass murder. The villagers followed a scripture consisting literally of crayon scribbles made by a severely deformed product of inbreeding. There was nothing more than a hack-job of mediocre imagery and costuming that came across as if it was cobbled together by someone who spent all of about thirty minutes researching paganism on the internet. It seems like they just ran with the most superficial aesthetics. In the Wicker Man, the paganism seemed sincere, and living. In Midsommar, it just seemed like post-Woodstock communal hippie LARPing.
The scenes that were clearly intended to be the most bizarre and mind-blowing or frightening more often came off as cheesy. The most noteworthy in this way was the breeding scene which almost came across like a bad comedy routine. Judging by the laughter from other audience members, I was not alone thinking this.
From beginning to end, Midsommar is a hack-job. The little that was good about it was done far better in the Wicker Man forty-six years earlier. All that was rewritten into that plot was poorly developed and thrown together, boring, or unintentionally comical. Not making any sense, especially after a post-viewing deconstruction is not the same as being mind-bending, or psychologically thrilling; it’s just poor writing.
My final ruling is that Midsommar is nothing more than a long, slow, half-baked rip-off of the Wicker Man without any of the charm or cultural depth. It’s not scary, not creepy and not a thriller, psychological or otherwise. And it tried way too hard to be all those things.