When most people think of horror movies, they think of dark hallways, vengeful spirits, and jump scares, not bright daylight and weird group rituals. However, a new genre of horror cinema has been gaining recent popularity: folk horror. Coined in 2004 by British director Piers Haggard to describe his moody occult thriller The Blood on Satan's Claw, folk horror, as the name suggests, deals with primordial beliefs and cults, often worshiped in group rituals.
Interestingly enough, most films that fall under the folk horror umbrella, including The Blood on Satan’s Claw, take place primarily during the day. This makes for a stark contrast to the often harrowing imagery of chanting, human viscera, and strange imagery, like the scene pictured below from 1973's The Wicker Man.
Ari Aster, famed director of Hereditary, is now trying his hand at folk horror. Yes, Hereditary had a cultist inkling, but Aster’s new film Midsommar plans to fully immerse the viewer in folklorish cultism from the get–go. In Hereditary, viewers had many unanswered questions until the end of the film, specifically about the underlying evil in the plot. In Midsommar, however, viewers are informed from the trailer about the deep–rooted worship and unsettling events occurring.
The plot is as follows: a couple travels to Sweden to attend a midsummer festival that only occurs once every 90 years. While they assumed that it would be a May Day–esque affair, it turns out to be a violent setting for Pagan worship. The bright background of the trailer—blue skies, green grass, and colorful decorations—proves to be extremely unsettling when paired with bloody imagery and mutilated bodies, just like other movies in the genre. Additionally, the music—dissonant string instrumentals—causes chills, even while just watching the trailer.
Aster is known for his extremely original plots, and Midsommar is no different. Any horror movie that takes place primarily during the day is taking a huge risk because darkness easily catalyzes most mystery and terror. When that's removed, horror must rely only on the plot, so there are no cheap shots that ensure a quick scare. Considering Hereditary's success, Aster has received seemingly endless positive feedback from fellow creatives during preview screenings, including that from Jordan Peele, director of Get Out and Us. During a recent interview, Peele commented that "[Midsommar] was some of the most atrociously disturbing imagery I’ve ever seen on film, and yet I experienced it with this open-mouthed, wild–eyed gape."
Best described by the director himself as "a breakup movie dressed in the clothes of a folk horror film," Midsommar plans to subvert classic notions of scary, creating imagery that gives viewers the same, wrongfully exhilarating thrill of rubbernecking a car crash. Considering the history of the genre and Aster's fame, let's hope it lives up to the hype. The film is in theaters on July 3rd.