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Freaks

Review, sci-fi, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

The modern cinematic landscape can feel a little… homogenised at times. Most films seem to be superhero blockbusters, adaptations of popular YA novels or cringingly mawkish Oscar bait. It’s hard not to be nostalgic for ‘middle class’ movies, ie. medium-budgeted flicks based on original screenplays and untethered to larger franchises. You’ll find plenty of them on streaming services, mind you, but precious few at the old picture house. Freaks, happily, is a great example of the value of said flicks, and illustrates beautifully why we miss them.

Freaks tells the tale of Chloe (Lexy Kolker), a young girl who apparently never leaves her house, thanks to the intervention of Dad (Emile Hirsch), who is either protecting her from a dangerous world outside the four walls of home or is, in fact, severely mentally ill and imprisoning her. This elegant set up gives the first half of Freaks a lot of tension and weight, but it also makes the plot difficult to discuss without spoiling, and this is the type of film that’s best to see without preconceptions. Needless to say, the story evolves along the way, and everything is thrown into a new light when Chloe braves the outside world and meets Mr. Snowcone (Bruce Dern), who does a lot more than just flog Paddle Pops…

Freaks, from directors Adam Stein and Zach Lipovsky, is a film that consistently punches above its weight. It’s directed with style and panache that far exceeds its budget level and features excellent performances from all, with young Lexy Kolker and Emile Hirsch making a very convincing daughter and father. The story is clever without being convoluted, reaching an exciting, heartfelt climax, and the broader allegorical nature of the themes raised makes it feel like a throwback to the golden age of 1970s sci-fi like Soylent Green (1973) and Logan’s Run (1976), but with a distinctly modern execution.

Freaks is an unexpected gem of a film, well-acted, well-written and well-shot, with timely themes and clever staging. While it’s not likely to change your life, it’s a thoroughly engaging 105 minutes and a nice reminder that ‘middle class’ movies, even though they’re the freakish outliers these days, can be just the ticket.

 
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Angel of Mine

Australian, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

There are few things worse than a parent losing their child. One of them would be letting a deceptive hope creep in that maybe, just maybe, the child isn’t lost after all.

Dealing with a tragic situation is already too much for a lot of people to take, as the psychological strain of death that can truly mess with the mind. But throw in the possibility that all that pain and heartache might have been misplaced and… well, you get films like this.

A remake of the 2008 French film Mark Of An Angel, with the only major change being the framing of the narrative climax and who is directly involved, it plays out as a character study of Noomi Rapace’s Lizzie, a divorced mother who has been left traumatised by the death of her daughter, and who starts obsessing over a child in the neighbourhood that she believes is her.

Thrillers of this nature benefit from plot ambiguity, keeping the audience in stasis while the two potential outcomes whirl around the story: Is this actually her daughter, or has she lost her mind from the grief?

In the hands of writers Luke Davies, who has experience with displaced families through his work on Lion, and David Regal, best known for his work in late-‘90s Nickelodeon cartoons, that ambiguity feels somewhat misplaced.

Lizzie herself isn’t given the most sympathetic of frames, even with her emotional baggage. This isn’t helped by Rapace’s performance, which is a little too dead-eyed to give the audience a chance to consider her actually being right.

But as the story plays out, its position both as a stand-alone film and as a remake starts to become clearer. Director Kim Farrant (Strangerland), even when the scripting lets her down, shows staggering empathy for the position Lizzie is in, along with that of Yvonne Strahovski as the child’s mother.

On one hand, having an adult basically stalking your child will never not be cause for alarm. But on the other, it’s a nightmare-come-to-life scenario to be so wracked with sorrow for the loss of one’s own flesh and blood that some hope, any hope, is worth clinging to. And this is all without getting into Australia’s dark heart, with children being separated from their families, a history which is still irritatingly debated to this day.

This is definitely rough around the edges, and the weakest of Luke Davies’ most recent efforts (also Beautiful Boy) dealing with familial strains, but overall, it just manages to work.

The performances may not be as strong as they needed to be, but the film’s sense of mood and unending sense of dread fill in the blanks, and the intent at its core regarding maternal instincts feels like it’s tapping into something real. More than a little unsettling, but real.

 
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The Nightingale

Australian, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

The impact on the Tasmanian Aboriginal population by the arrival of the British was genocidal. Whether this was part of the intention is still a matter of fierce debate of course. What is certain is that Van Diemen’s land in the late 18th century was one hellish place.

Director Jennifer Kent (who made the acclaimed horror pic The Babadook) doesn’t spare us the raw details. In fact, she somewhat overeggs it to an extent that some will find it wearisome as well as repugnant. Still, the film is clearly a work of conviction and has startling moments and performances.

At the centre of the story is Clare (Aisling Franciosi), a feisty young Irish lass with a voice as sweet as a nightingale, who is eking out an existence with her husband and their young child. This is a penal colony whose rough inhabitants are pinned down by the brutal regime of the English soldiers. As an Irish woman, Clare feels the old enmity and resentment of the English and the feelings of corrupt garrison commander Hawkins (Sam Claflin) is clearly mutual. The most oppressed of all are the original inhabitants, the Aboriginal people who are rounded up for a bounty or coerced into being trackers to navigate for the whites when they enter the wilderness interior.

Having established the harshness of the world, the film’s drama kicks off when Hawkins tries to exert his ‘rights’ to take/rape Clare. This is a scene that will numb some audiences. After that, Clare turns into an exterminating angel and the rest of the film is the working through of her revenge.

As noted, Jennifer Kent feels the necessity to show us how arbitrary and cruel this land would have been, and to stoke our vicarious desire for Clare’s actions. Franciosi (briefly in Game of Thrones) gives a fine performance and she brings inner strength to her pivotal role. Late in the film, she teams up through necessity with escaped Aboriginal tracker Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) – who has seen his tribe annihilated. This is one of the few elements that comes off contrived, and potentially problematic coming from a non-Aboriginal filmmaker.

The rest of the cast all throw themselves into the historical mayhem with good turns from Damon Herriman as the bullying and bullied subaltern soldier. The revelation though is Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games, Me Before You) as the irredeemably evil Hawkins. He is more well known for his romantic roles but here he relishes the opportunity to show what a range he truly has an actor. His cruelty is what gives the film much of its explosive force.

 
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Dogman

Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

After his 2008 breakthrough Gomorrah – an unapologetic look at the Camorra crime syndicate – Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone switched lanes to experiment with dark fantasy (Tale of Tales) and meta-media comedy (Reality).

Dogman marks his return to the crime genre, albeit on a smaller scale, with an intense character study of an everyman drawn into violence.

Marcello Fonte is Marcello, a harmless dog-groomer in a rundown coastal town off Southern Italy. Although popular amongst the locals and tight-knit community of business-owners, Marcello also deals cocaine on the side, which brings in the extra cash to treat his doting daughter to scuba-diving holidays.

But his fate is tragically intertwined with Simone (Eduardo Pesce), an unpredictable ex-boxer who terrorises the neighbourhood and frequently coaxes Marcello into his criminal activities.

Despite many opportunities to extricate himself from Simone’s (unorganised) crimes, Marcello is fascinated by his counterpart’s alpha-male toxicity and power. This is underscored in the film’s opening scene where Marcello calmly approaches and washes an aggressive canine – demonstrating his inherent nature to appease men and mad dogs alike.

The cinematography from Nicolaj Brüel is impressive throughout, capturing the town’s derelict boardwalk and dilapidated shopfronts in long lingering takes and natural lighting. This is counteracted with up-close, hand-held filmmaking – a strategy employed in the multi-strand narrative of Gomorrah. When Simone first appears, we get an uneasy sense of his towering presence by focusing on the diminutive Marcello – the camera invading his personal space and creating a sense of disorientation.

Though Garrone originally wanted Roberto Benigni to take the lead role, it’s hard to imagine anyone playing it better than Fonte. The relatively-unknown actor imbues his austere namesake with amiable characteristics, and went on to win the best actor award at Cannes for his performance.

The third act is where the film sags, abandoning Marcello’s prioritisation of his daughter for the pursuit of perceived justice. His moral dilemmas culminate in an overstretched epilogue that is curiously enigmatic and open to interpretation.

Humanistic in tone and carried by a strong central performance, Dogman averts its revenge saga trappings to create a social parable reminiscent of the neorealism era; occasionally drawing to mind the work of Italian masters like Fellini and De Sica.

 
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Pain and Glory

Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

In his 22nd film, titan of Spanish cinema Pedro Almodóvar goes for the jugular, literally: a thinly veiled meditation on filmmaking itself with neck pains, choking, repeated back complaints – and ample autobiographical flourishes.

Salvador Mallo (an excellent Antonio Banderas) is a successful, aging and largely retired film director living with a cache of paintings and a tendency to choke on all solid foods.

Salvador has enough money – and enough going for him, seemingly, to stay retired for the rest of life. Except the reason he isn’t working is due to a malaise triggered by a combination of factors (ill health, depression). Salvador didn’t retire voluntarily.

Running into old friend and actor Zulema by chance (multiple Almodóvar collaborator Cecilia Roth), Salvador meets with his former star actor Alberto (Asier Etxeandia), whom he hasn’t spoken to for decades. Haggard looking, Alberto offers Salvador heroin – which punctures his malady. The two begin talking and reminiscing.

Alberto gets wind of a revealing theatre work Salvador once had in mind entitled Addiction, about a former lover who abused drugs. Alberto begs Salvador to give him the play to perform and Salvador agrees – on the proviso he is not credited or involved.

Alberto stages the performance, the work is lauded, and suddenly the decrepit Salvador is awoken from his dismay – loved ones and past lovers take in the performances. They recognise the characters. Salvador is returned to memories of his youth which we see in flashbacks, to formative moments with his mother (a vital Penélope Cruz) – his earliest memories.

The director begins to remember his hopes, aspirations, dreams. The pieces of years gone by and his present-day begin to coalesce and collide. The malaise is shattered.

So begins an honest and remorseful examination of a man who has had more regrets than delights – more pain than glory. An 8 1/2 style framework where Almodóvar can examine what if, and what is.

Featuring a film within a film, as well as a theatre work addressed to the camera, the movie swims nimbly (and possibly too loosely) between fantasy and reality, zig-zagging back and forth from past to present. Interlacing a tapestry of frozen memories, doubts, memories and old flames.

Replete with its author’s typical flair for audacious set design and costuming, Pain and Glory swaggers with this flamboyant and idiosyncratic style audiences have come to know from the man behind Volver.

Aided by regular cinematographer José Luis Alcane and production designer Antxón Gómez, the self-awareness and personal nature of the latest creation by Almodóvar, now 69, is doubly enhanced by the parallels of his onscreen protagonist’s eccentricities – played out by his frequent on-screen muse. This is evinced by the ornamented home of the film’s fictional director.

Banderas gives a singular performance as this confounded architect, fluctuating between earnestness and fervour, cheerfulness and gloom.

If there is a complaint about Pain and Glory, its number of jumps back in time tend to undercut the momentum of the story, which has several disjunctive moments in its near two-hour runtime.

Almodóvar may have stated previously that he loathes conventional “biopics”. One senses in a pared-back work like this, avowedly one of his most personal and nearly confessional, this may be the closest he gets to making one.

 
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Hearts and Bones

Australian, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Dan Fisher (Hugo Weaving), a lauded war photographer nestled in the bustle of the Western Sydney suburbs, comes across a South Sundanese refugee (Andrew Luri). Unexpectedly drawn together and forming a close friendship, the two divergent men become entangled in emotional, political and moral complications. Each finds their beliefs questioned, as does the audience.

Led by a brilliant and understated Hugo Weaving, Hearts and Bones is the considered debut feature narrative film by Ben Lawrence (Ghosthunter).

Fisher, esteemed for his work and married to former ballet dancer Josie (Hayley McElhinney) receives an unexpected door knock from cab driver Sebastian Amad, insisting the photographer hear what he’s got to say.

Sebastian is concerned that Fisher’s forthcoming exhibition and book of collected works will feature images of a slaughter he was involved in 15 years ago in his South Sudanese village. A massacre where Sebastian (who is expecting a child) lost his first wife and three children. His partner knows nothing of his former life. He doesn’t want these in the public and asks Dan to alter the plans.

Fisher, still reeling from his own war experiences, is wary but sensitive to the man’s concerns. He agrees to let Sebastian into his home, and eventually, his life.

Dan and Sebastian become chums, unexpectedly finding much alike. Dan learns intimate details of the Sudanese migrant’s life, his culture, beliefs and cuisine. He befriends Sebastian’s wife Anishka (Bolude Watson), and their friends in the community. Dan is intrigued by local efforts to develop a choir.

Bus as their kinship grows and Dan looks deeper into the meaning of the photos, he finds himself dealing with complexities surrounding Sebastian’s past actions; concerns which threaten to unravel his burgeoning friendship, his thoughts on Sebastian, and the very bedrock of what he believes right or wrong. Unfortunately, there is a lot more to the photos than Sebastian made out.

Should Dan tell anyone about his discovery? Can he tell his wife, and cancel his own exhibition? What is the cost of defying his friend and publishing the photos?

All of this happens while Dan is navigating his own stressed relationship with his partner. Worsening the situation, Josie springs the unexpected news on Dan that she’s expecting.

Further complicating matters, Dan’s war-related anxiety is deteriorating. Josie finds out about the photos for herself and becomes wedged in the conflict due to her friendship with Sebastian’s wife – who is unaware of all of this and also pregnant.

Weaving is sterling, guiding fresh face Andrew Luri, yet leading the film with careful and honed sensitivity as he unravels into infinite states.

With multiple concerns arising from each confrontation, the narrative of Hearts and Bones provides many thought starters. Troubling and complex questions are posed through a character (a refugee) and setting (the outer Sydney suburbs) scarcely examined in Australian films. The location is key. One of the intentions Lawrence had in mind with the film, was to capture Sydney in 2019 in an honest way.

Coming from documentary roots, the street photography captured by cinematographer Hugh Miller (Sherpa, Ghosthunter, 2040) and Lawrence, who is the son of celebrated Australian director Ray Lawrence (Bliss, Jindabyne, Lantana) imbues the story with the desired familiarity and sensitivity. This is magnified by the prominent suburbia, a backdrop and a character itself, throughout the film.

Hearts and Bones is an involving and tightly wound human drama which hits close to home.

 
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Buoyancy

Australian, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Detailing with precision an innocent child’s descent into the world of forced labour, Rodd Rathjen’s excellent feature debut Buoyancy is a brutal and painstaking account of the South-East Asian slave trade.

14-year-old Chakra (breakout first timer Sarm Heng) picks rice for his father (Sareoun Sopheara) on a Cambodian farm. Rewarded with a roof above his head and little else, Chakra is told by a friend of an opportunity in Thailand to do the same thing – yet earn significantly better pay.

Impressionable and sick of toiling on the rice fields, Chakra throws himself into the new world, glad to leave home and start a new life – only to find himself sold to a seafood trawler to work as a fisherman.

Initially told only the first month of work must be free, days and weeks soon go by – his situation quickly disintegrates.

The 14-year-old’s shipmates, those who don’t burn out from exhaustion – or attempt suicide – are routinely humiliated, tasered, thrown overboard by the boat’s sadistic captain, Rom Ran (Thanawut Kasro).

A helpless innocent, Chakra can only watch as his colleagues on the trawler are stabbed, drowned and beaten, with the promise of improved conditions evaporating.

Focusing on specifics and little moments, the frequently wordless thriller thoroughly and empathetically conjures the misery of its victims’ experience: the gratitude for eating a little bowl of rice after working with no rest; the relief at getting off-board and into the water; the callouses on the workers’ soles. Its sharp-eyed and naturalistic approach blurs the line between documentary and fiction.

Rathjen gives significant attention to these details, placing viewers in the tormented condition of the film’s protagonist. (The writer-director conducted interviews with many young real-life survivors of the fishing slave trade).

Performed mostly by a cast of non-professionals in Thai and Khmer with English subtitles, audiences are immersed in a harrowing account.

This is aided by the penetrating cinematography of Michael Latham (Island of the Hungry Ghosts, the documentary-like feature Strange Colours), whose experience in non-fiction lends intimacy and familiarity to Chakra’s plight.

Atmospheric sound design by Sam Petty (The Rover, Animal Kingdom), and rhythmic editing by Graeme Pereira capture and enhance the film’s claustrophobic elements – the inescapable confines of the boat; the endlessness of the ocean and their situation; the constant repetition of the thud of the day’s fish; the waves which don’t cease.

As it races to its taut, breakneck finish, the film – which won the Panorama Prize at the esteemed 2019 Berlin Film Festival – offers viewers a brief ray of hope through the vital Chakra, an object of a fishing industry which reaps Thailand an estimated $6 billion a year.

Pulling no punches in its intently human rendering of the horrors of human trafficking, this is a thrilling film which finds fleeting moments of beauty – amongst infinite senselessness.

 
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The Faceless Man

Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

The Faceless Man begins with a long, wordy, moodily intense scene in a hospital corridor which sees a young woman diagnosed with cancer bitterly arguing with a long absent father who she seethingly accuses of neglect, narcissism and alcoholism. It’s a confronting, well executed scene that suggests that an emotionally wrought psycho-thriller is about to unspool. And then, well, things take a decidedly different turn. After the controlled slow-burn of the film’s opening sequence, The Faceless Man goes glaringly, amusingly off the rails.

Written and directed on a shoestring with blaring gusto by enterprising and hard-grafting feature debutante, James Di Martino (who has five shorts under his belt), this little-Aussie-film-that-could is a wild and woolly affair that gleefully references everything from contemporary Blumhouse horror and vintage Ozploitation through to Mad Max, Cabin Fever and Quentin Tarantino, with one scene even mashing up Michael Madsen’s ear-snipping act from Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction’s infamous bring-out-the-gimp showstopper.

The story draws in a disparate swing of themes and tropes, as a group of largely insufferable teens (including Sophie Thurling’s Emily, whose cancer is now in remission three years after the opening scene) head off to a country retreat for a night of serious partying. Unfortunately, they have unknowingly lifted a suitcase full of coke from a vicious gangster, and, also unfortunately, the redneck denizens of the small town in which they are planning to party have a very, very, very serious and ruthlessly enforced just-say-no-to-drugs policy. Oh, and yeah, there’s also a weird, faceless, humanoid monster skulking around…who may or may not just be a psychological hiccup of one of the teens…and there’s also mention of a serial killer known as The Axeman.

As you can probably guess, The Faceless Man is not short on ideas. This makes it a lot of fun, but it also leads to an unavoidable unevenness of tone, with the film awkwardly lurching from broad, straight-up-the-guts, off-colour comedy to serious drama, often in the one scene. The variance in performance is also uneven, with the teens (including young actor Lucas Pittaway, in his first feature since making his auspicious debut in Snowtown) playing it straight, as the bigger name supporting players (Mad Max legend Roger Ward and busy character actor Andy McPhee) go wonderfully, hilariously over the top. The tight budget hurts, but also helps in a strange way, with the lashings of blood, decapitations, dismemberments, stabbings and shootings lent a goofy charm courtesy of the ropey special effects. The movie’s monster, however, is very creepy and well-crafted indeed.

Though not always completely successful, The Faceless Man is loveably lurid and guiltily entertaining, and with a little more money (and just a smudge more restraint), James Di Martino could likely follow it up with something truly special.

The Faceless Man will premiere in Melbourne at a special red carpet Halloween event on October 31. Click here for tickets and more information. The upcoming screening at Monster Fest is already sold out.

 
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Animals

Australian, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

The Irish are famed for their love of poetry and song, their conviviality, their storytelling and their affectionate humour. And then there is the heavy drinking. All of these aspects are represented in spades in this buddy movie with a twist, a tale of two girls on the loose awash in a sea of wine.

Tyler (a grab-you-by-the lapels performance from Alia Shawkat) is the dark and stormy type. She even drinks that concoction when she is not slurping buckets of white wine or doing tequila shots or snorting substances. She is determined to live life to the full. She scorns the comfortable suburban life and the conventional dream of getting hitched and having babies. As she tells her gal-pal Laura (Holliday Grainger) when they find themselves in the pre-dawn streets, the silence of the suburbs is a lie and a trap. ‘They sell it as peace but really it is death closing in’.

Laura has been hanging out with Tyler for a decade and has used up most of her twenties by being swept along. This is not to say that she is merely regretful. Not at all, she has been on board for all the friendship-defining hellraising. However, she is a wannabe writer and she buys into the myth that she has to live life to the fullest to gather material (the film is based on a novel by Emma Jane Unsworth, who also adapts the screenplay, which must be partly autobiographical).

Most of Laura’s ‘work’ is still just snatched insights jotted down in the always-carried notebook. But Laura also has a family that loves her and a sister who, by contrast, is getting on with things. The sister has a young baby and she reminds Laura that a child is not a ‘thing that you can just put down when you have had enough’.

The film wins us over with its gentle affection for its flawed characters. As befits a portrait of the artist as a young woman, it has a strong script, which is brought to life by Australian director Sophie Hyde, who was behind the extraordinary Trans drama 52 Tuesdays as well as the TV series Fucking Adelaide.

The ghost of Withnail and I hangs over some of this. That is now the granddaddy of films about a mismatched pair on the fringes of the Arts. That film has the characters celebrating their debauchery and yet making us feel, too, the plangent move towards a final sobering up and a necessary farewell to a youth clung on to too long. Animals is not just that though. It has its own observations to make and its own rhythm and sensibility. It is also crucially a modern women’s story. It is a small film but an authentically realised one.

 
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Midsommar

Horror, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

With 2018’s Hereditary, director Ari Aster crafted a confident and harrowing feature film debut with some unforgettable imagery and an Oscar-worthy (but predictably snubbed) performance by Toni Collette. Just a year and change later, the 33-year-old New Yorker is back with his sophomore effort, Midsommar, and crikey there’s a lot going on in this one.

Midsommar tells the tragic tale of Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh), a young woman who in the opening minutes of the movie loses her entire family in a fashion we won’t spoil, but is utterly devastating. She’s also saddled with a slack arse boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), who stays with her post-tragedy out of a sense of obligation, even inviting her on a holiday to Sweden with friends Josh (William Jackson Harper), Mark (Will Poulter) and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren); the latter of whom comes from the isolated commune where they’ll be staying. Naturally the idyllic, sunny commune isn’t quite as idyllic as it appears, and before too long events kick off, both bizarre and gruesome.

The concept of dopey Americans getting into fatal trouble overseas isn’t a new one. It’s been a staple of the horror genre as far back as An American Werewolf in London (1981), and more recently the formula was honed with the likes of Hostel (2005) and The Ruins (2008). However, what sets Midsommar apart is its weird commitment to digging into moments of real human drama and exploiting them for maximum audience discomfort. In lesser hands the cast of characters would be generic and dull – the jock, the slut, the funny guy etc. – but here they have layers. Christian is kind of a shiftless dickhead, it’s true, but Dani was also needy and insecure prior to her personal trauma. They’re a mismatched couple in a shitty relationship, and it’s explored in a subtle, layered fashion. This kind of commitment to a sense of emotional truth is, sadly, all too rare in modern genre cinema and it’s genuinely laudable.

That’s not to say Midsommar is an unqualified success, mind you. Similar to Hereditary, Midsommar’s best scenes occur in the first half. The opening is stunning, an ill-advised magic mushroom trip is a wonderfully well observed sequence and the first real incident at the commune is profoundly disturbing. However, the film weighs in at a hefty 147 minutes which is simply too long to sustain the slowburn tension with any consistency. The back half, therefore, is a bit of a mess, with genuinely harrowing moments awkwardly paired with goofy beats and subplots that simply go nowhere.

Performance-wise, Pugh owns the show, bringing real depth and pathos to a character brimming with uneasy self doubt and guilt. William Jackson Harper (Chidi from The Good Place) also delivers as an ambitious academic, but the best character is really the sunny environs of the cult (shot in Budapest, Hungary) and its grinning, white robed acolytes. It’s perhaps not quite the equal of the granddaddy of folk horror, The Wicker Man (1973), but it certainly has a red hot go with not a single tacky jumpscare to be seen.

Midsommar is a sun-drenched, hallucinatory nightmare that doesn’t know when to end, or quite what it’s trying to say, but is enormously effective (albeit inconsistently) and a giddily uneasy ride into hell. If you can look past its shortcomings, it offers an unusually nuanced take on relationships at the same time as delivering a story dripping with menace and dread. Ari Aster needs an editor, it’s true, but two films deep he has also proven a commitment to relentlessly resisting the urge to be ordinary.