“Everything We Know about … ” is Paste’s series of deep dives into the forthcoming projects we’re most excited about. Explore them all here.
Director Ari Aster’s debut feature Hereditary wasn’t quite an It-level phenomenon at the box office, but with a $79 million gross it easily became the biggest moneymaker yet for A24, the indie film/TV production and distribution company behind such other critically acclaimed films as Ex Machina and The Witch. Part of that gross can be chalked up to marketing, as Hereditary received a big push as a film guaranteed to frighten and devastate audiences in equal measure. The other part of that gross can presumably be attributed to audience reaction: Hereditary, although somewhat divisive to the multiplex crowd, certainly got people talking. We’ll go ahead and admit it: Toni Collette’s tortured performance as Annie Graham certainly disturbed the hell out of us.
Like other directors who have made scintillating horror debuts in recent years (David Robert Mitchell, Jennifer Kent, Robert Eggers), the conversation immediately turned after the film to the obvious next step: What direction would Aster explore for his sophomore feature? That forthcoming film, tentatively (or permanently, it’s unclear) titled Midsommar, is already scheduled for an Aug. 9, 2019 release from A24, but the film’s production has been intriguingly shrouded in secrecy so far.
Here, then, is everything we know so far about Ari Aster’s Midsommar.
We can’t help but think that some aspects of the setting and the vague synopsis we have of Midsommar will result in many film fans expecting a similar movie to Hereditary. As that film ultimately proved to revolve around a cult-like coven of witches, so too does Midsommar invoke some of the same influences, The Wicker Man most obvious among them. Here’s all we have so far in terms of an overall synopsis:
A couple travels to Sweden to visit their friend’s rural hometown for its fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.
That synopsis certainly makes us think of The Wicker Man first, although this year’s Apostle on Netflix might be in the same sort of conceptual ballpark as well. Others have drawn comparison to films such as Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, a film that starts out seeming like a fairly standard crime drama before making a hard left turn into cult-centered horror in its third act. The same could possibly be said for Midsommar, as Aster has described it as an “apocalyptic breakup movie.”
Either way, it’s certainly still a horror film, or “Scandinavian folk horror,” to use Aster’s preferred expression. In a June interview about Hereditary with the Hollywood Reporter, he went a bit further, saying that Midsommar represented the last horror film he was planning on directing in the foreseeable future.
“That is the only other horror movie I have,” he said. “And I’m pretty sure that’s going to be it for a long time. I love the genre, I consider myself a genre filmmaker in that I want to play in every genre. I would love to make a musical. I have 10 other scripts that I’ve written that I want to make and there are other things I have. I’m writing a sci-fi film and there are at least four or five movies that I have ready to go that I am excited about making that I’d like to do in succession.”
So it’s probably safe to say that unless Midsommar is some kind of box office smash, we we’ll be seeing Aster dip a toe in some new genre waters afterward.
Back in January, Ari Aster signed a deal with William Morris Endeavor as his new agency, and unsurprisingly the agency offered up some of its actors for Midsommar as a result. That resulted in a cast that is headlined by Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor and Will Poulter in what appear to be the three major roles. Only the names of Pugh and Reynor’s character are known (Dani and Christian, respectively), suggesting that they are playing the vacationing couple mentioned in the synopsis. The cast is rounded out by Vilhem Blomgren, William Jackson Harper, Ellora Torchia and Archie Madekwe.
The 22-year-old Pugh is best known for her breakthrough performance in 2016’s Lady Macbeth, although she also appears in Netflix’s just-released Outlaw King with Chris Pine. She’s also slated to appear in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women, which we wrote about in more depth here.
Reynor is currently starring in the CBS All Access series Strange Angel, and has film credits that range from abominable (Transformers: Age of Extinction) to good (Sing Street). He’s appearing next in the James Franco science fiction film Kin.
Poulter, meanwhile, has mostly appeared in comedies to date such as We’re the Millers, although he also had parts in The Maze Runner, Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit and Alejandro Iñárritu’s The Revenant. If he’s playing the “friend” whose hometown is being visited, then perhaps you can expect to see a considerably more villainous and demented performance in Midsommar than we’ve seen from Poulter before. He appears next in this year’s horror drama The Little Stranger, starring Domhnall Gleeson.
Practically nothing is known on this front, besides the fact that principal photography on Midsommar began at the end of July. Shooting is presumably still ongoing, as Aster hasn’t announced anything to indicate that the film has wrapped.
We’ll update this piece as further information about Midsommar hits the web, but we’re very much anticipating the reveal of Aster’s sophomore effort.
A24 released the first teaser for Midsommar on Tuesday, March 5—watch below. According to the film’s page on A24’s website, it will be released Aug. 3, a few days ahead of its previously reported Aug. 9 premiere.
A24 revealed in an April 3 tweet that Midsommar will be released on July 3, a full month earlier than previously thought.
A24 shared a new poster and synopsis for the film on May 8—see both below.
Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) are a young American couple with a relationship on the brink of falling apart. But after a family tragedy keeps them together, a grieving Dani invites herself to join Christian and his friends on a trip to a once-in-a-lifetime midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village. What begins as a carefree summer holiday in a land of eternal sunlight takes a sinister turn when the insular villagers invite their guests to partake in festivities that render the pastoral paradise increasingly unnerving and viscerally disturbing. From the visionary mind of Ari Aster comes a dread-soaked cinematic fairytale where a world of darkness unfolds in broad daylight.