Director Ari Aster’s superb sophomore feature is every bit as disturbing and downbeat as his auspicious debut, Hereditary.

Summoning the pagan spirit of The Wicker Man (the 1973 British classic, not the Nicolas Cage abomination), Aster ignites a conflagration of horrors in Midsommar, which shares several similarities with his previous ode to the occult – namely a chilling family tragedy, some jolting and graphic violence, scary nudity, a relentlessly eerie tone, and a discombobulating climax.

Shattered by the recent death of her parents and sister, Dani (Florence Pugh) joins insensitive boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his buddies on a trip to a commune in rural Sweden, where they will experience a nine-day ceremony that only occurs every 90 years. This unique opportunity turns into a nightmare in broad daylight as the dark details of the ancient ritual are gradually revealed, and the outsiders discover the role they have to play in this macabre celebration of the summer solstice.

Aster doesn’t trade in jump scares, favouring ominous mood and subtle visual tricks to disquiet the viewer, supplemented with sledgehammer moments of horror that are all the more startling by their juxtaposition with the beatific faces, flower garlands and folk music of this disarmingly genteel community. Equally disturbing is the absence of malice behind the brutality and depravity, which simply serves the requirements of ritual and tradition.

With its measured pace and epic length, Midsommar will quickly alienate those looking for cheap thrills. Like the recent Suspiria remake, this is an exquisitely weird, gorgeously realised and frequently grotesque mindf–k that will get under your skin, and stay there.

star 4 and a halfIn cinemas: August 8, 2019
Starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter
Directed by: Ari Aster