Midsommar is the best summer horror movie of the 2010s. It’s wickedly surreal, fiercely original, a visual masterpiece, and filled with arresting plot twists. For those that haven’t seen it, stop reading now and go watch it, as what follows is filled with spoilers.
For those who have seen it, get ready to learn all the fascinating gossip behind the film and all the incredible easter eggs, missed details, and lore surrounding this ingenious horror film.
1. The movie takes place in Sweden. However, the film was mostly shot in Hungary, specifically a rural area not far from Prague.
2. Did you notice how the Swedish dialogue spoken by the Hårga natives isn’t subtitled? This intentional to make the audience feel isolated and confused.
3. Midsommar was produced very quickly. The film was green-lighted on May 18, 2018, and it was released June 18, 2019! That is a radically fast turnaround time of only 396 days from budget approval to theatrical release.
4. Singer/songwriter Ariana Grande loves Midsommar. She even bid on Florence Pugh’s floral May Queen Gown when it went up for auction at the A24 Charity Auction.
5. Speaking of the A24 Charity Auction, The Academy Museum won the May Queen Gown dress and paid $65,000 for it.
6. Here is a very creepy Easter egg about the film. Notice when Dani is lifted onto the pedestal and brought to the dinner table — Dani’s sister’s face is visible in the trees. You can even see the exhaust tube which she used to kill herself.
7. Dani also has a more explicit hallucination of her dead sister while she is tripping on the mushroom tea.
8. While everyone is eating, Christian’s drink is red. Everyone else is drinking yellow juice. What’s up with Christian’s drink? The educated inference is that it was steeped with menstrual blood.
9. There is a funny dark joke hidden in the movie. Jack Reynor’s character’s name is Christian—so the pagans killed the Christian!
10. The screenplay was written after the writer, Ari Aster, broke up with his girlfriend. In many ways, the plot is a film about breaking up and all the pain and rebirth involved in that process.
11. All of the scenes that take place in the United States were filmed in Utah. But the USA-based scenes are supposed to take place in Minnesota and New York.
12. All the art in the movie is meaningful. The mural we see in the beginning is particularly meaningful, because it actually conveys the whole plot. Notice how the character Pelle is at the top like a puppet-master controlling Dani and Christian and much of the plot is explained in this image, including the May Queen celebrations.
13. Disney movies inspired some of the art and visual folklore in the movie. While this seems strange at first blush, the movie does have a very fairy-tale vibe to it, if you can manage to avoid all the ritualistic violence and sex.
14. There is foreshadowing of the bear sequence and Dani’s queendom, because if you look closely at Dani’s apartment, she has a painting of a bear and a woman wearing a crown above her bed. That painting is “Stackars Basse” by Swedish painter John Bauer, a real artist who focuses on Swedish folklore and mythology.
15. Although 99% of the film is washed in daylight and the sun plays an important atmospheric role in the movie, the cinematography never once shows the sun directly.
16. Did you notice that the last 20 minutes of the film are rather minimal on dialogue? Although Dani and Christian are clearly the main characters of the story, they do not talk to each other at all during the last 20 minutes of the film, which subconsciously is extremely haunting because it reinforces their isolation from each other.
17. When Dani has a nightmare she breathes out black smoke; this is also a reference to how her sister and parents died.
18. According to writer/director Ari Aster, the Harga is not really a cult. It’s a commune. Here is exactly what he said: “I never called them a cult. For me, they are a community, and they are a family. I wanted them to exist as a place with a history and very clear laws and rules and traditions. I wanted all that to feel very rich, and very lived in.” That said, they’re certainly cult-like, and the way they recruit people is very cultish. So Midsommar is definitely a movie about cults.
19. Ari also says the best way to experience Midsommar is to have no idea what the film is about and go in with no expectations so it will surprise you. So if your friends haven’t seen it, don’t tell them about the plot or even let them watch the trailer.
20. Midsommar was made on a budget of only $9,000,000.
21. The Wicker Man (1973) by Robin Hardy is considered the genesis of folk horror movies, and it heavily inspired Midsommar.
23. In the New York bar scene, Pelle tells Christian, “Don’t forget about all the Swedish women you can impregnate in June” — little does Christian know!
24. In Sweden, the Midsummer celebration is in June. But the movie was not released until July 10, 2019 in Sweden. It was released July 3, 2019 in the United States.
25. The only American actor in the film was William Jackson Harper. Jack Reynor was born in Colorado but is Irish, Florence Pugh is English, and Will Poulter is English. Everyone else in the film was either Swedish, British, or Hungarian.
26. The Harga, the “cult” in the movie, is a fictional creation. There is no cult like this. That said, real Nordic lore and myth did inspire the film.
27. Maybe the scariest thing about being in the woods and out in nature is ticks and the threat of what can be a lifetime disabling disease — Lyme. The character Mark expresses his fear of ticks in the film, and this mirrored what director Ari Aster was thinking as he was terrified of getting Lyme disease while filming the movie.
28. Mind-altering drugs are an important plot device in the movie. When they first arrive, the crew trips on mushrooms. The other drug we know that is administrated is bark of the yew tree, which is a mostly toxic chemical but has a long history in European folklore. It seems like other drugs are taken as well before the May Queen ceremony.
29. The original cut of the movie was rated NC-17. To get the R rating and make it a mainstream film, 30 minutes or so were cut. That footage is now available in a director’s-cut version.
30. When the group is sitting in their New York apartment, there is a book on the coffee table called The Secret Nazi Language of the Uthark, and some viewers find this to be a subtle reference to right-wing populism in Europe and Nordic culture’s largely homogenous populations.
31. Midsommar has one of the most insane sex scenes ever made in a mainstream Hollywood production. It was unique because unlike traditional horror movies that exploit the women on screen, it humanizes Jack Reynor’s male character. Jack Reynor embraced this part of the role and has full frontal nude scenes in the movie.
32. The ättestupa sequence in the film — that is, the part where the elderly couple kills themselves by jumping off a ledge — has Björn Andrésen playing the male part. Björn Andrésen is a famous Swedish actor and was at one point called the most beautiful person in the world. Björn’s real life is full of tragedy and became the subject of the 2021 documentary The Most Beautiful Boy in the World.
33. Audiences in Sweden did not find the movie scary. Rather, they thought it was comical, a kind of dark comedy with many humorous elements.
34. Here are three crazy incidents within the plot as written by users on IMDb:
- “Early in the film, Simon sees a group of kids playing and asks Pelle what they are doing. Pelle explains that they are playing ‘Skin the fool.’ During the sacrifice scene at the end of the film, Mark’s skinned and mutilated body is carried into the temple with a jester’s hat atop his head. The kids’ game may have been derived from the actual practice of ‘skinning the fool’ for the Midsummer sacrifice.”
- “When Josh sneaks away to photograph pictures of the ‘Rubi Radr’ holy book, he thinks that he sees Mark standing in the doorway of the temple; it is in fact Ulf (the man who screamed at Mark for urinating on the ancestral tree) wearing Mark’s skin. (This is confirmed by the screenplay). Earlier Mark had asked Josh if he thought that Ulf was going to kill him for urinating on the tree. Though it happens offscreen, this is exactly what happens.”
- “Simon’s fate is based on a Viking ritualized execution method called blood eagle, in which victims were placed in a prone position, their ribs severed from the spine with a sharp tool, and their lungs pulled through the opening to create a pair of ‘wings.’ The victim would supposedly be alive and conscious through the process and not die until sometime after (likely from blood loss). As such, when Christian finds him, Simon is still breathing, though barely, if at all, conscious. As he was a part of the sacrifice, he does die sometime between Christian finding him and the final ritual: It can even be argued that he died while Christian was there, since he only breathes once or twice during the scene. Simon being alive and breathing when Christian finds him, however, is highly improbable due to the fact that the lungs require the diaphragm to expand the lungs to inhale air. Although, one explanation to this image is that Christian may be experiencing a residual hallucination from the aphrodisiac he was given earlier by the elder, intensified by the horrific state of Simon’s condition.”
35. Midssomar works as an atmospheric horror movie as well. You could watch it with no sound, and you would still feel the plot and emotion coming through because the visuals are so well-done.
36. Playing off the fact that Midsommar is also a film about breaking up and toxic romantic relationships, A24 gave away free couple counseling to market the movie.
37. Dani’s last name is Ardor, which means “flame” and could have significance as the movie ends with a massive fire in the temple.
38. Head trauma is a major source of violence in the film. It’s also a major source of violence in Ari Aster’s previous film Heredity.
39. Mark’s death in the movie is rather enigmatic, and most first-time viewers will miss it. Thankfully the critics over at Screenrant sum it up well: “Remember the scene where Josh sneaks out at night to take a forbidden photo of the cult’s hidden book? He gets confronted by someone wearing a terrifying mask, but what you might have missed is that the mask being worn is made from Mark’s skin. Earlier in the film, a group of people was playing a game called ‘skin the fool.’ Mark literally becomes the skinned fool after he pees on the sacred tree branch and gets lured away to his fate.”
40. The Midsommar score, which greatly adds to the film, was by Bobby Krlic. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Bobby Krlic is The Haxan Cloak — the indie experimental artist.
41. According to Spotify, the most popular song from the score/soundtrack is the “Fire Temple” song. This is the last song in the movie as the yellow temple burns down. As a standalone song, it’s a great track with a nice progressive lift towards a clashing and dramatic end.
42. A very talented Reddit user made Disney editions of the characters, which are quite comical and interesting to look at.
43. With more context shifting, there was also a trailer remix of the movie as a romantic comedy, which is hysterical.
44. The Swedish flag is blue and yellow. Blue and yellow play a prominent role in the costume design as well.
45. That said, most of the outfits the villagers wear are vyshyvankas, which aren’t a Swedish and Hälsinglander tradition. It’s actually part of the Ukrainian and Belarusian national costumes.
46. You might have missed this creepy detail, but the Harga inbreed because they believe incest creates oracle children.
47. The village in the movie only seems to have about 100 people or so, which does not make it genetically sustainable.
48. Florence Pugh had a hard time crying on camera; only with the help of the whole crew was it possible. Here is how she describes it: “I’ve never been an actor that finds it easy to cry on camera. It’s something very personal to me and despite finding other aspects of acting exciting and thrilling, I find crying very scary and at some points in my career directors having to change the scene because I couldn’t do it.”
49. Regarding the subtle exploration of xenophobia in the film and insular nature of the Swedish commune, when the group first arrives in Hälsingland they pass a sign that says: “Stop mass-migration to HÄLSINGLAND. Vote for a Free North this fall.”
50. Here’s a small goof from the movie. At the end, when corpses are led to the temple, you see crane rails on the left.
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