I’ve written in the pages of FANGORIA about how crucial it is to have new voices in horror, how folks who don’t particularly see themselves as “horror filmmakers” will be the ones to drag the genre into exciting new spaces. Ari Aster is a prime example of this - a literate, mature, visually thrilling storyteller whose considerable talents have already delivered one queasy classic in the form of Hereditary. We're lucky to have this new voice in the genre.
So imagine my surprise when, throughout its running time, his new film kept echoing scenarios, moments, and narrative beats from 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
Make no mistake: Midsommar is a wholly original work from one of the maybe three most exciting new talents in horror. It is unnerving, horrifying, and at times hilarious (mostly due to Will Poulter’s amazing performance). It risks making big demands of its audience, yet it’s a great deal more accessible than Aster’s previous film. Florence Pugh’s wide awake nightmare journey through grief, heartbreak and transcendence is something special indeed. Midsommar is, as they say, the real deal.
At the same time, those Texas Chain Saw echoes, fleeting but cumulative, kept bouncing around in my skull and when I walked out of the theater I tweeted something that was, like the individual who wrote it, a bit bold and maybe not all that smart:
Forget the HEREDITARY comparisons. @MidsommarMovie is a European cousin to the sun-soaked fairy tale madness of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. Like, direct spiritual riffs in parts.— Phil Nobile Jr. (@PhilNobileJr) June 19, 2019
It was instantly misconstrued - people took my comparison to mean Midsommar was Chain Saw’s equal in terms of quality, or impact, or importance. I tried to explain without spoiling, but no amount of qualifying or clarifying could right that particular ship. And I couldn’t even write about it in my own magazine, having given our Midsommar coverage space to a guy named Jordan Peele.
So here I am, BMD family, an editor between issues, hoping one last time to make my case that Midsommar, on top of being a daring, original, complex story about grief, toxic relationships, and the dangers of being (and/or dating) a thoughtless bro, is also a kinda classy, low-key remake of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. (As is internet custom, gifs will be used.)
MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR MIDSOMMAR (AND THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE) FOLLOW.
Midsommar follows a group of young people road-tripping into an unfamiliar region.
They encounter the locals, whose way of life is quite peculiar and foreign to them. Our heroes get an early sign that something isn’t quite right when one of the locals cuts open their palm…
And symbolically smears their blood onto a nearby surface.
This doesn’t phase them enough to get the fuck out of dodge, and things get worse from there. Later one of the protagonists trespasses into a private, forbidden space. He discovers an inbred local wearing someone else’s face, catches a hammer to the head, and is dragged out of frame.
One by one the travelers disappear, but the remaining characters hang around, not realizing they’re being snuffed out by the inscrutable local tribe.
The last one to be killed is incapacitated and wheeled around in a chair, but is also kind of an annoying dick, giving his death an unexpectedly cathartic effect?
There is a pivotal scene or two set at a dinner table.
And our lead gains a terrible clarity about her situation.
Ultimately she survives, having endured a soul-shattering, transformative experience.
And the final moments of the film show the locals giving themselves over to a kind of violent, primal choreography.
Now: is there a whole lot more going on in Midsommar than just riffing on a 45-year-old classic? Of course there is. Aster has delivered another emotionally devastating piece of A-list horror that will join his previous work's place in the pantheon of modern horror classics. Do I think the film is at least partly inspired or informed by the beautiful, terrible, sun-scorched horror of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre? I dunno, probably? Did you look at all those gifs? Something's going on. Do I really think Aster intentionally made a stealth remake of Hooper’s masterpiece? Not really, but the parallels and echoes invite the comparisons, and it’s a lot of fun to ponder the connections. Is this all just clickbait designed to provoke debate? Who can say, really. All I know is that these are the thoughts I had while watching the movie, there are folks out there who agree with me, and I can’t put gifs in a printed magazine, so thanks to my BMD buds for letting me go off in here.
This concludes my presentation. Go see Midsommar, and subscribe to FANGORIA! Subscribe this week and get 20% off a one-year subscription by using the code MIDSOMMARCHAINSAW.