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Film / Midsommar

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"We only do this every 90 years."
"Welcome to Hårga, and happy midsummer! It has been ninety years since our last great feast, and it will be ninety years before our next. And what poetry that it’s now the hottest and brightest summer on record. We already have so much to give back. And so, without any further blathering, let’s raise our glasses, and let our nine day feast commence. Skål!"

Midsommar is a 2019 Folk Horror film directed by Ari Aster (of Hereditary fame) starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter, and William Jackson Harper.

Dani (Pugh) and Christian (Reynor) are a young American couple with a relationship on the brink of falling apart. But after Dani's world is rocked by a family tragedy, Christian reluctantly invites her to join him 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.

Previews: Teaser, Trailer.


Midsommar contains examples of:

  • A Birthday, Not a Break: The nightmarish ättestupa ritual takes place on Dani's birthday; to add insult to injury, Christian forgets the date.
  • A Fête Worse Than Death: The whole Midsommar festival.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Dani's emotionally unstable sister kills herself and their parents during a depressive episode and Dani is haunted by the thought that she could have prevented it.
    • Christian is drugged, raped and then victim blamed by his girlfriend, who actually condemns him to death for it.
    • Dani is gaslit and cheated on (the latter albeit non-consensually) by her boyfriend, Christian. Earlier she has a nightmare that Christian and his friends abandon her at the commune.
    • Ultimately, the theme that comes up again and again is this: Dani knows something is wrong, is talked or talks herself out of her feelings, and then things go badly, just as she first feared.
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  • Affably Evil: The Hårga, for all of their manipulation and brutality, are incredibly genuine with their empathy towards one and other and never fail to be unceasingly polite.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • At the end of the movie, Christian is paralyzed, and is helpless to protest as Dani chooses him to be the final victim of the ritual. He is sewed up into a disemboweled bear and left inside a temple to burn alive. Although his mouth isn't open, we can hear his muffled screams throughout the process.
    • Earlier in the movie, Christian comes across Simon in the chicken coop, his back opened up and his lungs exposed. To Christian's horror (and ours), Simon's lungs still move—he's breathing.
  • Anti-Villain: Pelle is in complete lockstep with the cult the entire time, but he seems to actually like Dani and comes across as completely genuine in his desire to make her a part of the family.
  • Anxiety Dreams: Dani dreams of the rest of the party abandoning her in the village, only for the dream to segue into the much deeper trauma of her family's death.
  • Apologises a Lot: Dani apologizes and takes the blame for a lot of the issues between her and Christian. This has probably helped keep their inert relationship from truly dying.
  • Arcadia: Enforced Trope. Pelle makes sure they drive directly from the airport to the village without passing any big cities in between (much to Mark's dismay).
  • Arc Number: Nine, and its multiples. The festival occurs every ninety years, lasts nine days, and the ritual requires nine sacrifices. This is true to real Scandinavian paganism, as nine is a sacred number in Norse mythology.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: After Dani confesses her conflicted feelings about her dwindling relationship with Christian, Pelle asks her, "Do you feel held by him? Does he feel like home to you?"
  • Asshole Victim: Downplayed with Christian. Sure, he's culturally insensitive and an uncaring boyfriend, but that probably doesn't justify being burnt alive as part of a ritual sacrifice while unable to move or scream. The same goes for Josh and Mark, the former ignoring the elder's warnings to not take photos of the cult's sacred book, and the latter for (albeit unknowingly) urinating on the ancestral tree and not apologizing. That being said, their punishment still outweighs their crimes.
  • Audience Surrogate: While all of the Americans are visibly disturbed at the ättestupa ritual, Simon and Connie most vocally portray the pure horror and disgust of what an outsider's reaction to it likely would be.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: The ritual goes off without a hitch and there is no indication that anyone in the outside world is going to come and stop the cult.
  • Bears Are Bad News: In the village's mythology, the bear carries all the "most unholy affekts" of the community and is purged in the final sacrifice with the ninth victim, chosen by the May Queen, sewn into a bearskin.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: While Josh, Christian, Simon, and Mark all look extremely horrific by their deaths, Dani continues to look pretty and fairly untarnished throughout the whole film, and while Connie appears bloated, she is also in a much better physical condition than most of the sacrifices.
    • Gruesomely averted with the female elder in the ättestupa ritual whose face is smashed in when she falls on to the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. As well as Dani's sister, Terri, whose corpse is pale and covered in vomit from the exhaust fumes.
  • Big Bad Friend: Pelle is a lifelong member of the cult and likely only befriended the group in the first place because he wanted to draw them in as sacrifices (or, in the case of Dani and possibly Christian, have them join the community.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Though you don't need to know Swedish to figure this out, when Dani spontaneously starts "speaking Swedish" during the May Queen dance, she's actually speaking gibberish, revealing that it's just a product of her hallucination. There is however a lot of spoken Swedish that goes untranslated and unsubtitled, most of it painting varying levels of foreshadowing.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The Hårga as a whole, but especially Pelle. He's a friendly and thoughtful guy and the only one of Christian's friends who shows empathy towards Dani. The extent to which his kindness to her can be read as genuine is up to the audience, but his friendship with the rest of the party was all an effort to lure them to their deaths.
  • Black Comedy: The film contains a surprising number of pitch-black moments of humor amidst the terror.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Though the sex scene between Christian and Maja is disgusting and horrifying due to his inability to consent, the actions of the older women who surround them (singing and moaning in ecstasy, cupping Maja's cheek, even pressing down on Christian's butt to make him go faster) are so bizarre that they almost verge on funny.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Technically averted, as Dani's family and the elders who commit ättestupa die first. However, the Ambiguously Brown Simon and Connie are the first outsiders to be killed in the village; Josh, the only black member of the group, is the first to be killed onscreen.
  • Blatant Lies: A cult member insists to Connie that her devoted fiancé simply left the village without her and without saying a word in order to catch a train. She doesn't believe it for a moment and gets hostile. She's Properly Paranoid and indeed Simon never left the village; unfortunately, she suffers the same fate.
  • Body Horror: Between most of the deaths in the film and Ruben's deformed, incest-bred face, this film has spades of this.
  • Broken Smile: Dani gives one at the very end of the film as the fire temple burns to the ground. Aster's script makes it clear that, while the image is meant to convey multiple emotions, the trope was definitely invoked.
    A SMILE finally breaks onto Dani’s face.
    She has surrendered to a joy known only by the insane.
    She has lost herself completely, and she is finally free.
    It is horrible and it is beautiful.
  • Cathartic Exhalation: During the rituals, Dani joins in doing this with the other Hårga women.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: While the Hårga has some electricity thanks to a water power plant, their isolated location has no communication towers nearby.
  • Color Motif: After Maja loses her virginity to Christian, she gets a red vest and cap and bright red lipstick, to symbolize she's now a sexual being.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The film is set in a hippie-ish pagan commune in an environment where the sun is up for twenty hours a day. This can lull viewers into a false sense of security, expecting things to be cheerful. They're not.
  • Creator Thumbprint: It has some common elements with other Ari Aster works, particularly Hereditary. These include:
    • A female protagonist with intense family trauma and anxiety issues.
    • Extreme violence against people's faces.
    • A Creepy Child.
    • Full frontal nudity used for Fan Disservice and horror.
    • A soundtrack composed by a contemporary experimental artist that mostly consists of Drone of Dread.
    • Villainous Incest.
    • A montage showing a traumatic event in the protagonist's life where the only audio is the droning soundtrack and the sound of her screaming.
    • A villainous cult made up mostly of unassuming, Affably Evil old folks.
    • Lots of symmetrical wide shots.
    • A theme of nonvocalized human sounds, which is emphasized in the trailer (tongue-clicking in Hereditary, sharp breathing sounds in Midsommar).
  • Creepy Child: Ruben, the cult's oracle.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Terri kills her parents (and herself) with carbon monoxide; she attaches one of the hoses to her mouth, sending the toxic fumes right into her lungs.
    • One of the villagers in the ättestupa ritual doesn't die after jumping off the cliff, despite being horribly mangled. The other villagers have to kill him with hammers.
    • Poor Mark gets his face peeled off and used as a mask (the actual peeling is offscreen, thankfully.)
    • Simon gets his back ripped open to expose his lungs, his eyes stuffed with flowers and is suspended by ropes tied to his wrists and legs inside the chicken coop; to make things worse, by the time Christian finds him in this situation, we can see his lungs are still breathing...
    • Finally, Christian is paralyzed, sewn into a bear carcass, and trapped in a blazing building.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Obviously the clearest example is Mark, Josh, Christian, Simon, and Connie's curiosity about Hårga in general, which brings them there. Too closer examples are Mark following the girl to sex and to his death, and Christian's interest in Maja driving Dani to condemn him. But the most obvious example is that Josh's decision to ignore Hårga's very clear rules about not taking pictures of their sacred texts gets him killed.
  • Dancing Is Serious Business: The Harga decide who is the May Queen and thus has the power over life and death, as well as the highly honored position in the group via a group dance.
  • Dance Off: Played with, and much more seriously than the trope usually is. It appears to be the case with the May Queen dance, but Dani wins, seemingly easily, without training as the others have. There are, however, heavy implications that she is being allowed to win so that she will want to stay, but it remains ambiguous.
  • Daylight Horror: The festival is bright, cheerful, and absolutely terrifying. It takes place during the summer solstice, which at this latitude means the sun never completely sets.
  • Death Glare: After Mark gets caught urinating on a sacred tree, one of the locals won't stop glaring at him for the rest of the day, which unnerves him.
  • Deep Breath Reveals Tension: The Hårga often do this as part of their rituals, although they deny feeling any tension; Dani constantly does this because she's on the brink of a panic attack.
  • Destructive Romance: Dani and Christian's extremely unhealthy relationship is falling apart at the start of the film, but is prolonged due to the death of Dani's family. As they continue to stay together, Dani's emotional well-being continues to decline, ultimately resulting in Christian's death.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Word of God confirms the cultists are racists. They meet in the country, dress in white and have a perverted idea of religion that leads to them gleefully murdering people. Sounds familiar?
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Christian is drugged and then forced to join a fertility ritual by the cult. Dani, despite seeing that he's still drugged up to the point that he can't move, still condemns him to death for it, and the final shot of the movie is of her openly smiling, treating the moment as one of joy for her.
  • Downer Beginning: The film begins with a prologue depicting Dani discovering that her sister has killed their parents and then herself. Cue the opening credits.
  • Downer Ending: At the end of the film, Mark, Josh, Connie, Simon, and Christian are all dead, with Dani groomed into joining the Hårga and manipulated into choosing to burn Christian alive as the final sacrifice in the cult’s ritual.
  • Drop the Hammer:
    • The cultists use a ceremonial mallet to Mercy Kill one of the elders who attempts the ritual suicide but only manages to shatter his leg.
    • Later, Josh is killed or at least incapacitated by a blow from this mallet.
  • Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: Dani in the final sequence, when she has to choose whether to condemn Christian to die, then watches the sacrifice take place.
    • Also Dani in the opening scenes, as she still tries to recover from her family's deaths.
  • Dwindling Party: Of the American college group (Dani, Christian, Josh, Mark) and the English tourists, Simon and Connie, only Dani survives.
  • Eagleland: Type 2 for Mark, who is only interested in sleeping with hot Scandinavian ladies. Throughout the festival, he makes snide and belittling comments about the local culture, to the point that when he inadvertently desecrates a holy object, his reaction is to say, "So what?" An outraged villager makes a point of referring to Mark as "your American" when shouting at Pelle. For his part, Pelle jokes that butting into things is just what Americans do.
  • Endless Daytime: Due to the high latitude and it being midsummer, "night" in the Hårga village is only a brief period of twilight. The sleeping quarters have black-out shutters to help the villagers sleep.
  • Empathic Environment: Played with. It's freezing cold and snowy during the opening tragedy, then becomes a potential subversion in brilliant Swedish sunlight, which reflects Dani's pretty horrible way of coming to accept the cult as her new family.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Dani's first few scenes establish her as someone who is always apologizing and second-guessing herself,
    • Christian's first few conversations with Dani are half-hearted, establishing him as someone with one foot out the door of his relationship but not committing one way or the other.
    • The very first time we lay eyes on Christian's friend group, Mark is advising Christian to dump Dani and score with as many ladies as possible. He also refuses to move when Christian tries to take a call from Dani, establishing him as a rather rude and crude person. Josh says that Christian is letting his relationship distract him from his doctoral thesis, establishing him as someone who places academia above personal relationships. Only Pelle seems supportive, establishing him as a Nice Guy, at least on the surface.
  • Eye Scream: During the scene where Christian discovers Simon strung up in the chicken coop with his lungs pulled out, he observes that he is not only still (barely) alive but that he's had flowers inserted into each eye ball.
  • Facial Horror:
    • Ruben has an extremely deformed face as a result of centuries of deliberate inbreeding.
    • The old couple who sacrifice themselves both get their faces destroyed. The woman lands face first on the rock, basically ripping her face off, while the man falls on his leg and survives, necessitating three other cultists to come by and cave his skull in with a mallet. Judging by the fact that they specifically aim for the head, this seems to be a required part of the ritual.
  • Fan Disservice: The sex ritual between Christian and Maja is extremely bizarre and not at all titillating, due to both the audience of older women moaning along with her and singing, as well as the fact that Christian is drugged and isn't entirely aware of what's going on.
  • Folk Horror: A terrifying cult in the middle of nowhere.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The very first shot of the film shows a full frame mural done in a semi-medieval/folk pagan style, detailing (roughly) the entire sequence of events that will unfold.
    • A painting behind Dani and Christian at the beginning of the film shows a blonde woman kissing a bear. Christian gets paralyzed and forced into a bear skin at the end of the movie, essentially making him the bear and Dani - his girlfriend - the blonde woman in question.
    • While waiting to meet with the village elder, Christian is perplexedly looking at one of the drawings on the wall, that of a bear perishing in flames. Unknowingly, he is literally staring at his ultimate fate.
    • If you pay attention to the murals in the village dorms, you'll get a glimpse of the rituals in store for the rest of the film.
    • Josh is warned by Pelle to take "discreet" photos of the festivities. Josh then gets in trouble with an elder for asking to take photographs of a sacred text, then dies because he sneaks in to do it anyway.
    • Early on, a painted cloth displays a tale of a woman wooing a man by feeding him food with her pubic hair and menstrual blood baked inside of it. The final image shows her pregnant with his child. Maja, the girl infatuated with Christian, later performs this ritual on him and gets him to impregnate her.
    • Earlier on in the film, some of the children in the cult are playing a game called "skin the fool". Whilst we don't see what happens to the rest of him, Mark - who has been nothing but a fool throughout the film - does indeed get skinned. His skin is later used to make a dummy wearing a fool's coxcomb.
    • When asked what happens to villagers after the age of 72, Pelle makes a throat-slitting gesture and then smiles. The others assume that he's making a joke, but he's not.
    • Pelle tells Dani that his parents died in a burning building. In the end, villagers and outsiders alike are sacrificed in a burning building.
    • After noticing a villager with a grudge leveling a constant Death Glare at him, Mark says, "Is this guy going to murder me?" We don't know if it was this specific villager, but the villagers do murder Mark shortly thereafter.
    • Confirmed in the script that this IS the same villager that ultimately has his "revenge" on Mark by wearing his face.
  • Forgotten Birthday: Christian forgets Dani's birthday and tries to make up for it with a piece of cake containing a single candle... which he fails at lighting, even after several attempts.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The film communicates the nigh-constant hallucinogenic-induced state the characters are in by distorting and warping the scenery, which in most cases is only noticeable if you're paying really close attention to the backgrounds. For example, Dani's parents and sister are visible after she's crowned May Queen, and Dani has several frightening fast visions of her parents, possibly just before their deaths.
  • Freudian Trio: The selfish, impulsive Mark is the id. The detached, inquisitive and introverted Josh is the ego. The dishonest and performatively nice Christian is the superego.
  • Gaslighting:
    • When Dani quite calmly confronts Christian about his agreeing to the Sweden trip without telling her, he insists that he had told her until she's apologizing to him for bringing it up. The two physically switch places to emphasize the reversal.
    • Christian tries this again with Josh after stealing his topic, initiating a conversation about it in order to make it seem like it's Josh's fault and that he's in the right. Josh isn't having it.
    • Pelle and the cult wind up doing this to Dani, insisting that they are providing emotional support and understanding she needs to coerce her into joining their ranks.
  • Hate Sink: The film has three of these.
    • Christian Hughes is the emotionally distant boyfriend of Dani Ardor who is pushed by his friends Mark and Josh to end the relationship before attending a festival in Sweden. Christian continually pushes Dani to the side from forgetting her birthday to ultimately cheating on her with one of the Hårga women (albeit without his consent), and he even steals Josh's thesis intending on making it his own.
    • Mark is a culturally and emotionally insensitive Manchild who establishes his unlikability by urinating on an ancestral tree and dismissing it as being insensitive to the Hårga culture.
    • Josh is warned to refrain from taking pictures of the Hårga's sacred texts but does so anyway in response to Christian stealing the aforementioned thesis.
    • All three men have influenced Dani's mental health and life and are sacrificed with little fanfare in the grand festival held every 90 years.
  • Held Gaze: Several examples, both of the romantic and platonic varieties:
    • Maja essentially seduces Christian with one after she kicks him.
    • A couple between Dani and Pelle, most notably when he's calming her down after the ättestupa ritual.
    • One between Dani and one of the female cultists while Dani's having a breakdown after seeing Christian having sex with Maja.
    • One between Dani and Christian when she's deciding whether to sacrifice him or one of the villagers.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • Much like with Annie in Hereditary, Dani has a moment of intense, grieved wailing following her hearing of her family's death, and it's agonizing to listen to.
    • Three synchronous scenes end with the characters hearing the faint sound of Connie’s screams coming from somewhere in the forest. She’s never seen again afterwards...
  • Homage: The film borrows shots, plot beats and even entire scenes from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). This includes using almost entirely Daylight Horror, using similar shots for the locals at a dinner table, a group of students road tripping to a remote backwater area of a country, a character ritualistically cutting their palms and marking surfaces with their blood, a character being knocked out from behind by an antagonist wearing another person's face, and so forth.
  • Holding Hands: Pelle and Dani hold hands while they're talking after the ättestupa ritual, though she's slightly worried Christian will walk in and see. Pelle's not bothered by the possibility.
  • Human Sacrifice: The ättestupa is a disturbing example of this. As a matter of fact, even the deaths that don't seem to be ceremonial turn out to be this. The ritual requires nine sacrifices: four villagers, four outsiders, and one additional sacrifice. The old couple killed in the ättestupa, as well as two live volunteers, are the villagers, while Simon, Connie, Mark and Josh (who had all died at various points throughout the movie) are the outsiders, and Dani (as the May Queen) has to pick one more. She chooses Christian.
  • Incest Is Relative: Due to the relatively small population of the village, the village elders must approve of a match to avoid incest, and outsiders must be brought in to diversify the gene pool. Marriage between cousins is considered normal. That being said, the village oracle is always the product of incest.
  • Inspired by...: There is indeed a village named Hårga, and a myth about how the Devil once turned up to play at a dance there and played a song so infectious that everyone kept dancing until their bodies were worn down to their skulls.
  • Jail Bait: According to Pelle, Maja got her "pants license" the previous year - ie she's 16. This may be some Deliberate Values Dissonance, though, as the age of consent in Sweden is 15.
  • Killed Offscreen: Simon disappears, presumably to the train station, and a disbelieving Connie disappears shortly after. Mark is never seen again after wandering off with a village girl. All are dead the next time they're seen.
  • Light Is Not Good: The cult exclusively dons white clothes and are often associated with bright colors such as white and yellow. The village is also bright and sunny, even past 9:00 PM due to the low latitude, which the American characters find strange and off-putting.
  • Mad Oracle: Ruben is both physically and mentally handicapped by design; in the eyes of the cult, his mind is "unclouded by cognition" and thus more susceptible to visions.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: Ruben, the cult's inbred oracle, is kept in an attic above the room where the sacred texts are held, where he spends all his time smearing paint into the holy book. This ends up being something of a subversion; Ruben, despite his deformities, is cherished by the Hårga rather than shunned, and he only lives above the sacred texts so he can add to them. Of course, he was purposefully inbred, so it's not quite as rosy as that makes it sound.
  • Male Frontal Nudity:
    • Josh is killed by a man wearing one face and zero pants.
    • Christian is left completely naked in the middle of the village.
  • The Masochism Tango: When the film opens with Christian and Dani's relationship on the rocks. Dani vents to her therapist about Christian's indifference, while Christian and his friends vent about Dani's instability. About their mutual frustration with the other. Christian even plans to break up with her, but the death of Dani's family compels him to stay until she's had time to recover.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • Downplayed. While Maja casts three "love spells" on Christian, it's pretty clear his interest in her comes from his disinterest in Dani and the inhibition-releasing effects of psychedelic drugs.
    • The significance of the flower crown in Dani's parents' room is never explained- a sign of spiritual influence on Terri's actions, a calling card of the cult's presence, or a total coincidence?
    • Dani becoming the May Queen despite not training for the endurance test could be a sign of the gods' favor or that the other dancers just agreed to throw.
    • The villagers repeatedly appear to share feeling including pain, sexual pleasure, and Dani's panic. Whether this is deliberate empathic behavior as a custom or a superatural connection due to their religion being real is left vague.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Dani's last name is Ardor, a synonym for "intense"—and indeed, Dani is shown to be intensely emotional throughout the movie. The word is borrowed from French, where its original connotation was literally "burning", which given that Dani decides that Christian should be burned alive at the end may also have another connotation.
    • Christian's name sets him at odds with the village's pagan culture.
  • Mercy Kill: The ättestupa ritual involves a massive mallet being used to put anyone unlucky enough to survive the fall out of their misery via head-smash.
    • Given his state, Christian's death at Dani's choosing is a twisted version of this.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: Minor example; a single shot of Christian levitating shortly before having sex with Maja, while present in the script, was notably absent from the final cut. Aster publicly stated that he cut it due to its overtly supernatural feel clashing with the vibe of the film.
  • Murder by Cremation: A paralyzed Christian is burned alive as an offering.
  • Murder-Suicide: Dani's mentally ill sister, Terri, kills her parents and then herself by flooding the house with carbon monoxide. Although the presence of a flower crown on the floor next to the parents implies that something else might be afoot.
  • Mushroom Samba: Psychedelic mushrooms and other drugs are used in many of the festival ceremonies. Dani has a nightmarish bad trip not long after arriving in the village, and they only get worse from there.
  • Mythology Gag: One shot in the second trailer (Dani resting sadly in bed) is eerily identical to a shot in Ari Aster's previous film Hereditary.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Played for dark, dark comedy with the fertility ritual, first when a drugged out Christian stares dumbstruck at the naked old women writhing around him, then immediately after when he runs around the village still trying to cover himself despite knowing he's in mortal peril.
  • Nemean Skinning: An interesting subversion. Christian is sewn into a skinned bear, but rather than being a display of strength on his part, it's done to him unwillingly as preparation for a ritual sacrifice.
  • Nothing Is Scarier:
    • Mark's death is entirely offscreen, and all we see of him for the rest of the film is his torn-off face being used as a mask by one of the villagers. The rest of the corpse is never seen again.
    • Connie. Although we see her body at the end, we only hear her horrifying screams offscreen and do not see her body until the end. (This is somewhat lessened by the director's cut, which showcases an additional ritual in which the villagers playact deciding to sacrifice a boy by drowning him and then deciding to spare him; the "sacrifice" wears the same outfit Connie's obviously water-bloated body later appears in. But that still doesn't explain what happens before they drown her.)
  • Not the Fall That Kills You: The old man in the ättestupa ritual survives his fall by landing on his very-freshly deceased female ritual partner. His legs are shattered beyond recognition, and he promptly has his skull caved in by a mallet.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Dani stumbles on Christian having sex with Maja and several other women. He isn't quite doing so voluntarily, thanks to drugs and some manipulation, but since it caps off his overall shabby treatment of her, Dani turns against him.
  • Oh, Crap!: What breaks Christian out of his spell after the fertility ritual is her insistence that she can "feel the baby" inside of her already.
  • Opportunistic Bastard: Christian hijacks Josh's plan to write his PhD thesis on Hårga, going behind his back to Pelle so that it would look like his idea first.
  • Pop-Star Composer: The soundtrack is composed by The Haxan Cloak, who, as a notable artist in the dark ambient genre, isn't exactly a pop star, but still has a storied music career outside of film soundtracks.
  • Psychotic Love Triangle: Two examples, one more overt than the other.
    • Simon/Connie/Ingmar: One of the most disturbingly subtle clues that the cult are not good. Simon and Connie are engaged, but Ingmar has a crush on Connie, who seems completely oblivious to it, and denies that they ever "dated" when Ingmar mentions it. As the cult are all white and Simon and Connie are not, they seem very unlikely to be welcomed by them, and when Simon and Connie reject the suicide ritual, they are brutally killed. It's possible that this was all intentional on Ingmar's part, to punish Connie for choosing Simon.
    • Christian/Dani/Pelle: This is a somewhat more ambiguous version, as it's never made clear if Pelle definitely wants Dani to himself or is actually trying to help Dani and Christian's relationship, but Pelle definitely encourages Dani to view the cult as her new home.
  • Re-Cut: Ari Aster has confirmed that a Director's Cut is in the works during a AMA on Reddit, confirming that version will at least be 30 minutes longer and contain such things like more graphic ritual scenes and a sequence where Dani stands her ground and calls Christian out on some of his Jerkass tendencies.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Lots of the foreshadowing is much more obvious on the second viewing. In particular, the very first image in the film, the large mural, depicts most of the plot.
  • Satellite Love Interest: A few purposeful examples.
    • Maja never speaks prior to her ritual with Christian. This seems to be a Take That! that Maja can "seduce" Christian without saying a single word.
    • Similarly, the girl who beckons Mark over never speaks and it's not clear what, if anything, she knows about his death: did she kill him? Did she merely assist? Did she always know he was going to die?
  • Scenery Porn: For all the terrible things that happen, the village and its surroundings are absolutely gorgeous.
  • Sexless Marriage: One of Christian's initial reasons for wanting to break up with Dani is that she's not interested or enthused about sex. He thus doesn't quite reject the attention of the village girls.
  • Ship Tease: Pelle is the only friend of Christian's to treat Dani kindly, tries to bond with her over their shared losses, gives her several longing looks which she doesn't notice, gives her a deep kiss after she wins the May Queen dance, and remembers her birthday. Depending on how you interpret Pelle, this could also be a Villainous Crush.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Following the ättestupa ritual, Mark's disappearance and offscreen death marks the point where the film starts really ramping up the horror.
  • Smooch of Victory: Pelle gives one to Dani after she wins the May Queen dance.
  • Snow Means Death: It's snowing when Dani learns of her family's deaths.
  • Stepford Smiler:
    • Every single member of the cult smiles eerily almost all the time.
    • Dani also acts like this early in film, repressing her anxiety and depression and avoiding conflict in the group.
      • She becomes a type III Stepford Smiler in the final shot as she comes to accept the Hårga as her new family.
  • Stranger in a Strange Land: Dani who has undergone an unbelievably traumatic experience is the "stranger" in the strange land of the Hårga.
  • Stress Vomit: Many of the characters retch in response to the Ättestupa ritual, and Christian almost throws up when discovering various bodies. The only person to fully vomit is Dani at the sight of Christian in the fertility ritual.
  • Suddenly Bilingual: Subverted. During the May Queen dance, while tripping balls, Dani thinks she's spontaneously able to speak and understand Swedish with another girl. In fact, they're both speaking complete gibberish. Whether the girl is just leading her on or if they're really able to understand each other, and if so what the reason for it is, is unclear.
    We don't need words to communicate! It's dancing!
  • Throwing the Fight: Implied by the exaggerated pratfalls of some of the May Queen dancers until only Dani remains.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • After accidentally defiling a sacred artifact, Mark makes no attempt at apologizing to an irate villager who views it as an Excrement Statement. Instead, he says, "So what?" and makes the transgression worse. Even after noticing that the villager continues to shoot a Death Glare at him for the rest of the day, he ignores the red flags of another villager luring him away from the rest of the group and follows her.
    • Josh is given an extremely stern warning about not photographing a sacred book. He decides to sneak out alone, during the (still-bright) night, to photograph it secretly. Even if he didn't expect to be killed, he should have expected a severe reaction to breaking such a strict rule that certainly would have ended his thesis opportunity if he got caught.
    • This might well be a Justified Trope: it's plausible that a lack of common sense, bordering on stupidity, is a major qualification for being invited to the festival in the first place. Supporting this possibility: Dani, the only attendee Pelle didn't mean to invite, is the only one not to have done something foolish enough to get herself killed by the end.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer doesn't even try to cover up Josh's death and contains shots from the final sacrifice.
  • Two Decades Behind: Subverted. A villager mentions at one point that the children are watching Austin Powers, which is surprising for a town that seemingly came straight from the Middle Ages. However, the Austin Powers films aren't exactly new, so the commune is still somewhat behind the times.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight:
    • Simon asks, "Are we just going to ignore the bear?" as the group passes a caged bear. Ingemar only says, "It's a bear," in a disinterested tone and walks right by.
    • Christian and Josh's reactions (or lack thereof) to the ättestupa. Specially when contrasted with the reactions of Simon, Connie and Dani who all freak out at the sight of two people committing ritual suicide in a gruesome fashion.
  • Woman Scorned: Though Christian has been a consistently bad boyfriend for years, Dani faithfully stays with him until she sees him having sex with Maja. The next time they see each other, she condemns him to die.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Dani's trauma starts off with the discovery that her sister killed herself and their parents, and then only goes downhill from there. She is highly prone to panic attacks after this tragedy, including one she has during a bad shroom trip. Between witnessing a gruesome ritual suicide of two elderly members of the cult and discovering that her emotionally distant and obliviously abusive boyfriend is cheating on her, it's no wonder she's finally pushed over the edge and becomes the cult's May Queen.
  • Writer's Block: Christian is having real trouble with his PhD thesis. This being Christian, he expects a lot of sympathy for this even as he plans a two week trip to Sweden, and he winds up just trying to steal his friend's topic.
  • Your Cheating Heart: After Dani completes the May Queen ritual, she catches a glimpse of Christian having an orgy with Maja and various other women. Dani never realizes that he's been drugged and coaxed/forced into doing so, and as punishment for his apparent infidelity (and his general neglect of her beforehand), she chooses him to be the cult's final sacrifice.


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