My Rating: 4 stars
As soon as I saw the trailer for this movie, I knew it was for me. I’ve always thought that an over-cheerfulness was always way creepier than more traditionally dark material. And, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Swedes in this story, joyfully celebrating their Summer Solstice holiday are presented as supremely sinister. I knew I had to see this film in the theater with all the other horror weirdos. And, I got my chance when I recently had a Monday off work. I was surprised (but not too much) to see how many other single-ticket horror fans there were in the audience for this week day matinee. It was pretty fun.
Our protagonist is Dani, a depressed grad student who has suffered some pretty serious emotional trauma. Her weasely boyfriend Christian is pretending to be supportive, but is really a coward, doing anything to avoid responsibility. Lacking any direction in their lives (both personally, and academically), the couple decides to accept their Swedish friend’s offer to come travel to his home village for a special Summer Solstice celebration. Their trip starts off as fun, if not disorientingly foreign. Then things start getting seriously weird. And, ultimately the visit descends into some truly ominous goings-on. (All delivered by friendly, gorgeous Swedes, with glassy eyes, and serene smiles). The narrative expertly takes advantage of the tourist’s feeling of not really knowing what’s going on in a country where they don’t know the language, but not wanting to offend anyone by doing something wrong. The feeling of unease is very relatable. This movie is by the same director who made Hereditary—a movie responsible for ruining many a night’s sleep with its graphic imagery, and grisly tableaus. And, this movie unquestionably follows suit. It has the same creeping sense that all is not alright. And, it certainly has the gore. And happily, I found the story and climax of this film to be a lot more narratively satisfying than I did Hereditary. (You read my complaints about that one).
I liked this movie quite a bit. It was a fun one to watch communally in the theater. It has the structure of a classic “Americans travelling abroad and experiencing foreign customs” horror movie. But, it didn’t feel quite as exploity as those typically can get. Perhaps that’s because the foreign culture that’s being viewed by American eyes is a traditional European culture rather than the route these films usually go, exoticizing some Amazon tribe. Apparently, a lot of the rituals depicted in this film are based on real, ancient Norse customs. And, that makes it all the more darkly fun. This movie isn’t for lightweights. This is a straight horror movie, with lots of unflinching shots of huge, bloody messes. This isn’t the kind of light satirical horror we’ve seen from Jordan Peele lately. So, I wouldn’t recommend it for the weak of stomach. But at the same time, I’m a bit sad that I can’t talk about this movie with more people.