Tag Archives: Horror

Midsommar, a Poor Rewrite of the Wicker Man

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.

Promise broken.

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.


The Walking Dead – More than Just Zombies

Honestly, I don’t care much for zombies or zombie movies. I’ve always found them to be a little juvenile. Most Zombie films always seem like a trite rip-off of Night of the Living Dead. Well, AMC’s series The Walking Dead, although not particularly original in its title is anything but a generic zombie story.  Actually, I think it’s pretty damned good.

In the interest of full disclosure, I only began watching the show halfway through the second season and I never read the comic book series off of which it is based.  I was aware of the show, but as I said I don’t care much for zombies, and I figured it was just a long drawn-out rehashing of that god-awful movie 28 Days Later.  One night however, I was bored and decided to give it viewing.  I was hooked from the very first episode I watched. After that, I made it a mission to backtrack and catch up with all the episodes I had missed.

While I don’t like zombies (can I say that enough?), I have always been a fan of post-apocalyptic themes.  There is just something that fascinates me about a devastated world, sparsely populated with rag-tag bands of survivalists fighting to reestablish some sense of civilization, fighting against roving gangs of marauders, monsters or aliens … whatever, in an increasingly neo-tribal, neo-medieval environment – and THAT is what The Walking Dead does right – so much that the zombies don’t even bother me.

            

The characters in The Walking Dead are very well developed, and the social dynamics of the main band of survivors are intense and believable. There is everything from sexual dynamics, racial tension, and marital problems. It is filled with action, adventure, drama, a bit of romance (but not too much mushy stuff), tragedy and just the right amount of gore without going overboard.  There is not a flat or one-dimensional character in the series, at least not one that sticks around for very long. And that could serve as a warning to new viewers – be careful which characters you get attached to. They might not last very long.

The story basically follows Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), a sheriff’s deputy in Georgia, whom after being shot in the line of duty wakes up in a hospital to a world populated by the cannibalistic living dead. He hooks up with a band of survivors, reuniting with his wife and son, and eventually finds himself thrust into a precarious leadership position. He begins the series as a down-home, mild-mannered, all-American family man. Then after many months of fighting zombies, marauders, back-stabbers, and watching his friends and loved-ones killed and “turned,” he begins to descend into a rather dark place. Even he is disturbed by his transformation.

The Walking Dead is a great series. In the end however, it is not about the zombies.  It’s really about people, humanity, love and cooperation.  It’s about being pushed to the breaking point and keeping it together. After society has completely broken down what’s important is more than just mere survival. It’s about finding a sense of meaning in a world of chaos. It’s about creating normalcy in an environment that is anything but normal. Each episode leaves you eagerly awaiting the next. And me personally, it leaves me pondering: “How would I have handled that?”