Updated: Aug 8
For over five decades, there has been a rarely discussed horror subgenre which now seems to be capturing the world’s attention. “Folk Horror” as it has been termed features stories that fit into one of two categories; they either rely heavily on folklore to tell their tale or deal with themes relating to the fear of folk (people) in general. Most people pinpoint 1968’s WITCHFINDER GENERAL as the first folk horror film and together with 1971’s BLOOD ON SATANS CLAW and 1973’s THE WICKERMAN, the three make up the “Unholy Trinity” of the Folk Horror Genre. One can spend countless hours dissecting the genre and figuring out which films fit the criteria to be included but for decades those three films have been at the forefront of the genre. However, recently a new crop of films have been made which bleed from the same Folk Horror vein. Most notably 2015’s THE WITCH (which, as the official favorite film of Mandragora Magika, will be discussed endlessly in another post) and 2019’s MIDSOMMAR.
MIDSOMMAR (Written and directed by Ari Aster of HEREDITERY fame) stars Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor and Will Poulter. In an effort to discuss the film without spoiling any of its glory, I’ll give you the official synopsis for those who have yet to partake in the MIDSOMMAR ritual. “After a family tragedy, a young American couple joins some friends at a midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village. What begins as a carefree summer holiday takes a sinister turn when the insular villagers invite their guests to partake in festivities that grow increasingly unnerving and viscerally disturbing.” That summary alone left me dying to see the film, but I do not think it prepared me for the visual masterpiece I was to experience. To me, MIDSOMMAR fits perfectly in the folk horror genre and indeed, it ranks up at the very top. Beautifully filmed with brilliant colors, and spectacular views, the filmmakers paid attention to every detail. Everything from the embroidered clothing to the music to gleeful joy of the midsummer maypole completely captivated me. The use of runes throughout the film to add to the story telling was done in such an impressive and thought-out way that it became one of my favorite things about the film. Whenever I watch the film, I find a new mind-blowing moment that I hadn’t noticed before and I have a feeling this will continue over time.
Needless to say, I absolutely loved MIDSOMMAR, so when A24 announce the release of an extended directors cut of the film, I didn’t think twice about purchasing a copy. The Collector’s Edition of the film features the 171-minute directors cut housed in a clothbound slipcase. Also included is an illustrated 62-page book featuring the stunning artwork in the film by artists Ragnar Persson as well as an introduction by Martin Scorsese. Throughout the film, I was entranced with the artwork of the town and wanted a more detailed look at all of it. The book included in the Collector’s Edition is exactly what I was looking for. As for the extended version of the film, I feel like every scene cut from the original release was important and added to the understanding of the story. I do not think a single second of this film should have been cut so the extended edition is the only way I’ll be watching it going forward. A24 has gone above and beyond with this Collector’s Edition and I truly hope they will release similar versions for their other films (and by other films, I mean THE WITCH specifically – come on A24!).
With the release of MIDSOMMAR and THE WITCH, A24 is one film away from completing their own “Unholy Trilogy” and I, for one, cannot wait until they reach that milestone. They have proven to be the new studio to go to for genuinely unsettling yet thought provoking horror and they have made a fan of this witch.
The Director's Cut was accompanied by a 62-page booklet with illustrations by Ragnar Persson.
ABOUT SI MANDRAGORA
Si is a Gardnerian High Priest and Minos in the Minoan Brotherhood operating in Flagler County, FL. A practitioner of various kinds of witchcraft since adolescence, he now runs Mandragora Magika, creates occult art, grows all kinds of plants but mostly in love with the poisonous variety. Si holds a degree in Graphic Design from the Art Institute.