For those lucky enough to snag tickets to the premier of Midsommar you were blissfully unaware of just how depraved things would be. After all, how gruesome could things be in a festival celebrating the perpetual daylight of Sweden’s Summer Solstice? Well, Ari Aster answered that with a definitive “pretty fucking gruesome”. There were so many references to Pagan gods, Vikings, real cultures and festivals, and magic it is hard to digest everything. We were lucky enough to watch Midsommar in the coolest restored theater, The Screenland Armour with a small group of fellow horror lovers and then engage in a discussion with podcasters from Nightmare Junkhead. We have all your answers here.
What was with the Silence of the Lambs style flaying of Simon?
The single most grisly death was that of Simon who we did not see get killed, only the aftermath of his torture. That’s right folks, we still don’t know exactly how he died because when he was eventually found by Christian(Jack Raynor) with his ribs, back, intestines, and lungs pulled outside his body, he was still breathing. Known as the Blood Eagle for obvious reasons this form of torture perpetrated by the Vikings was saved for the worst of the worst. The first documented was in 865 when Ivarr the Boneless avenged his father’s death(Ragnar Lothbrok) by snake pit at the hands of King Aella of Northumbria. Scholars debate whether or not this cruel ritual was even possible, but the imagery is enough to instill terror in even the bravest souls. In Midsommar, Simon is very much alive and breathing when Christian finds him. Why the commune of Harga tortured poor Simon who’s only sin was wanting to leave is unknown, but I suppose cowardice is possible.
What is with the super unhygienic pie and drink served to Christian?
Certainly not gory, but just as gross was the pie recipe depicted in full color detail that was eventually presented to Dani’s(Florence Pugh) codependent boyfriend. The only thing more cringe inducing was the small additive present in his drink. A red haired Swedish seductress had her sites set on Christian and was using any and all methods at her disposal to attract a baby daddy. That included the use of pubic hair baked into a pie, and menstrual blood dropped into his glass and than served to the clueless suitor. There is a long history of hair use in general and pubic hair specifically used in witchcraft and magic. Baked into pies with honey and rose petals, woven into totems, and capable of producing serpent, women’s hair had power. This commune is tiny and needs new blood figuratively and literally to keep it going. That is why Pelle and the other Pied Pipers go out into the world to bring unsuspecting dimwits to slaughter. It’s like Rumspringa for psychopaths. Pelle’s sister has been tapped to……..uhm be tapped, so Christian needs to get on board and start sporting some wood. Whether Christian eventually succumbed to her magical charms, or was just under the influence of far to many psychotropic drugs, what transpired was the wackiest sex scene this side of Brian Yuzna’s Society.
What did that bear do to anyone?
Dani’s evolution to her true self, one that did not include a first rate clinger that she should have kicked to the curb months if not years ago, came at the price of an innocent bear and hapless boyfriend. When forced to decide between ending her boyfriend’s life in a fiery blaze while decked out in the previously sacrificed bear skin or another Harganite, she chose team Dani finally. Along with eight other sacrifices(not all involuntary) he was burned to a crisp in the yellow shed of death. Bears are symbolic of wisdom, the warrior spirit and the harvest, so the bear’s sacrifice was likely to ensure strong crops in the idyllic but deadly cult. For Dani, choosing her boyfriend instead of a Harga resident marked her shedding of her former self and accepting her new family. She is a mess. The loss of her family seen in the first moments of the film, coupled with a thinly hinted at mental condition of her own, and a support system that only goes through the motions because it is the acceptable thing to do has left her damaged, repressed, and self-loathing. She is prime for the cult picking. By finally finding surrogate family members(regardless how crazy or murdery) to share her grief with she declares her independence. Aster has admitted that this film was written during a breakup and it is obvious that those emotions influenced the story. Visual cues are dropped throughout the movie that she needs to face her “bear” and move on with her life. The picture in her apartment and the pictures depicted in the sleeping barn to name a few.
What’s with the number nine?
There are nine days to the ceremony and nine sacrifices. The number comes up a lot in the movie for good reason. In Norse mythology there are nine realms. These worlds are, Niflheim, Muspelheim, Asgard, Midgard, Jotunheim, Vanaheim, Alfheim, Svartalfheim, and Helheim. Odin hung himself from the tree of life for nine days and nights before having secret runes revealed to him. Thor takes nine steps and dies after his final battle at Ragnarok. That is just a tiny list of the importance of number nine. For the fictional land of Harga, there is the days of partying and the sacrifices. Those begin with the two elder members who jump from a cliff unto(sort of) a large rock below. Simon is third through Blood Eagle while attempting to flee, with Connie following shortly. Fuck boy Mark(Will Poulter) is next to meet his fate at the hand of a potential taxidermist. He is the fool. The children are playing Skin the Fool at the beginning of the film foreshadowing this. Christian was volunteered by Dani as the bear, and the final two were volunteers from the community. The elders and Simon by air, Christian and the volunteers by fire, Connie by water(drowning) and Josh by earth(buried in the garden). Mark could be either air from being skinned or earth being stuffed with straw.
Who is Ruben and why is he so important?
The members of this cult believe only those unclouded by the thoughts and sins of normative human existence can write the next passages in their religions texts. As a result, the community commits incest to maintain a mentally challenged person to continue that writing or painting in Ruben’s case. The ironic thing being, of course, that elders who are tainted by normal desires are left to interpret the paintings and thus make religious law. It is a clear sneer at religion and politics today with obvious name choices like Christian and Ardor reinforcing the concept.
Is all the mirroring a brain washing technique or is the entire group mind melding?
One of the most visually interesting aspects of the Midsommar was the use of reflections throughout. Mirror, picture, television, and emotional reflecting was seen. The group clearly believes in intense empathy, but are they actually that in tune? It’s hard to tell if Dani has become one of the group magically by the end, or it is a drug-induced byproduct of psychological warping. She appears to speak and understand Swedish during the Maypole competition but that could be all part of her shroom trip. She appears to be syncing up with the group even before that as she grabs for Christian well before the first elder jumps lending credence to the theory that she is already becoming a member. Mirroring is used as an emotional tool by the community so it is difficult to separate the intention from any magic. In any case the clever uses of visual aspect and self reflection used by Aster helps provide an experience you won’t soon forget.
Are Hereditary and Midsommar from the same horror universe?
If you saw Ari Aster’s runaway hit Hereditary last year, you are more than a little psyched for this year’s overtly folk horror themed Midsommar. Hereditary started as one type of movie, but by the end took a crazy detour into Pagan demon worship. That ending was……..a lot. It had everyone scrambling to learn more about occult references King Paimon and all those crazy words Satony, Zazas, Liftoach Pandemonium. With another film set in the supernatural world of occult connections, folklore, and beautiful settings that belie the true nature of what lies just beneath the surface, Ari Aster has become the master of folk horror. That causes most of us to ask, with so many subtle similarities, are Hereditary and Midsmmar set in the same folk horror world?
The answer could be as simple as having a flexible mind. Going into Hereditary no one foresaw the insanity of light pole decapitation, terrifying clucking, or old white people naked worshiping a stylized demon God. They were all there and they all worked. A technicolor, daylight nightmare, Midsommar looks Hereditary dead in the eye and says you ain’t seen nothing yet. By the end, you are left shell shocked, laughing and crying simultaneously, and deeply disturbed. The moral of the story is clear. Don’t be a dick dude. Get out of bad relationships when it’s time or risk becoming
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.