By Anna Husted EBS FILM CRITIC
This Halloween marks the fourth annual Lone Peak Horrorfest at Lone Peak Cinema and the third annual Haunted Peaks Halloween Festival in Big Sky. I can’t think of a better film to tease the Halloween weekend than Ari Aster’s “Midsommar.”
“Midsommar” is centered on Dani (played by precocious Florence Pugh), a grieving graduate student who recently lost her entire family in a murder-suicide. To distract her from her pain, Dani’s boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor), an anthropology student, and his boneheaded friends (William Jackson Harper and Will Poulter) decide to visit to a commune in Sweden for a once-every-90-years festival that their friend Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) has invited them to. Dani was not invited, but Christian, ever the dutiful boyfriend, brings her anyway.
Before entering the gates of the commune, the group eats psilocybin (magic) mushrooms with some of Pelle’s brothers. The ensuing psychedelic and drug-consumption imagery are among the greatest depiction of the effects of hallucinogens ever put to film, next to those in “Apocalypse Now,” in this critic’s humble opinion. I have never seen such realistic use of computer-generated imagery (CGI) before. But through the eyes of Dani, the CGI paired with the edits, eerie bright lighting and tonal soundtrack, hits the audience with mounting waves stress and anxiety through her own palpable experience.
This sense of unease builds as the film progresses, perhaps more so when the anthropologists are virtually undisturbed when the first “incident” happens, writing it off as a cultural norm that no outsider should judge. Cue the stereotypical “DON’T OPEN THAT DOOR!” type of moment. However, Dani and two other foreign visitors do not regard the incident, which I’ll leave for your viewing consumption, lightly and attempt to leave the commune. After all, Dani is still mourning the loss of her family and not ready for the frightening rituals the remote Swedish community find meaningful.
Christian and his friends continue to take for granted these overt warnings, reducing Dani’s well-placed instincts to stereotypical, girlfriend-provoked annoyances—to their ultimate doom, of course.
And Aster’s choice to have “Midsommar” take place entirely in daylight is commendable, and speaks to the unique and powerful horrors the film conjures.
“Midsommar’s” weaknesses are its runtime—2 hours and 27 minutes—and its redundancy. We see far too much ceremony preparation, with Swedes dressed in white, picking flowers and making pies. Cutting scenes for length would have packed a bigger punch when the horror ultimately arrived. Still, the truly grotesque imagery that populates several scenes are bone chilling—despite the bright sun beating down on the fair-haired participants of the rituals.
Needless to say, “Midsommar,” which airs at Lone Peak Cinema Oct. 25-27, is not part of the family-friendly portion of Haunted Peaks, but Horrorfest always promises some fantastic films for the entire brood. This year’s Horrorfest will (most likely) include the new Addams Family animated movie for kids, for which costumes are encouraged, and businesses around Town Center will host the Saturday mini-Monster Mash Trick or Treating event in conjunction with the Horrorfest.
Haunted Peaks also has a full weekend schedule of events including, but not limited to, a free block party with live music, a pumpkin stroll, Geocaching, Halloween happy hours, a costume contest and more.
While the Haunted Peaks Halloween Festival takes place a few months after mid-summer, the power of the sun bringing out the living and the dead featured in “Midsommar” will not soon be forgotten by this All Hallow’s Eve.
Check bigskytowncenter.com/events/haunted_peaks/ for a full schedule and more details.
Anna Husted has a master’s in film studies from New York University. In Big Sky she can be found hiking a mountain or at the movies at Lone Peak Cinema. When not gazing at the silver screen or watching her new favorite TV show, she’s reading, fishing or roughhousing with her cat, Indiana Jones.