Midsommar.
Midsommar.

The horror film so haunting it needs a health warning

WE ARE all afraid of the dark. That is where bad things happen.

The trippy, treacherous Midsommar flips that notion on its head. After this, you will have cause to be afraid of the light.

The time of year in which Midsommar takes place is late June, and the setting is a small village in rural Sweden.

Proximity to the North Pole means daylight is currently running 24/7, an occasion marked by a fortnight-long festival.

The close-knit community traditionally moves as one to live in an idyllic meadowland clearing, a space dotted with architecturally strange dwellings which will host a wide (and increasingly mystifying) array of time-honoured rituals.

Four American students have gained permission to observe these unusual proceedings from a mutual friend.

Midsommar is out to haunt you in the most deceptive way.
Midsommar is out to haunt you in the most deceptive way.

Dani (Florence Pugh) is still reeling from a recent, devastating family tragedy. Though she was not directly invited to take the trip abroad, Dani is travelling as a plus-one with her not-so-supportive boyfriend.

Christian (Jack Reynor) has not been a rock for Dani during her crisis, and is only keeping their relationship going out of guilt more than anything else.

As for their fellow travellers, the conscientious Josh (William Jackson Harris) and the conscience-free Mark (Will Poulter) can barely hide what a drag it is to have down-in-the-dumps Dani hanging around.

As dreary as they sound, these intra-group tensions become a crucial element of the unworldly spell Midsommar intends to cast on unwitting viewers.

Especially once some events scheduled for the festival begin to exhibit a pattern of ending abruptly and, in the eyes of the visitors at least, dangerously.

Midsommar is a mind-wringing, sense-zinging threat to the psyche.
Midsommar is a mind-wringing, sense-zinging threat to the psyche.

Let's leave all further plot description right there.

For Midsommar is a deadset one-of-a-kind horror movie, taking a very slow, very scenic and incongruously sunny route to a terrifying final destination.

This cravenly creepy thing is out to both haunt you, and heave you into a bottomless abyss of confusion and conjecture.

That R18+ rating is not just a censors' rating. It is also a health warning.

A mind-wringing, sense-zinging threat to the psyche, Midsommar marks just the second work of filmmaking prodigy Ari Aster.

His first (last year's superb Hereditary) summoned a calibre of dread as disorienting as it was disturbing. Nothing has changed here.

Those already hailing Aster as a 21st century Hitchcock might ultimately be selling him short.

Overall, a worrying, withering wow, sure to go down as one of 2019's best.

MIDSOMMAR (R18+)

Rating: Four and a half stars (4.5 out of 5)

Director: Ari Aster (Hereditary)

Starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter, William Jackson Harris.