‘Midsommar’ vs. ‘Hereditary’: Which Horror Flick is More Terrifying?

With a film of flower crowns and folksy rituals, Ari Aster has managed to make bright, vibrant colors and broad daylight into the stuff of nightmares. 

The director’s second film, Midsommar, creates and perfects the daylight horror genre with the story of a group of graduate students who travel to Sweden to experience a commune’s midsummer traditions and festivities. 

Florence Pugh Ari Aster Jack Reynor
Florence Pugh Ari Aster Jack Reynor| Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images

According to Box Office Mojo, the film grossed $6,560,030 on its opening weekend in early July and has grossed $25,212,116 as of August 4, 2019. 

So, how does the film stack up against Aster’s first horror flick, Hereditary? Both are tremendously different while upholding many of the same themes and tropes, but which one is the spookier flick?

Jack Reynor and Gunnel Fred
Jack Reynor and Gunnel Fred | Photo by Gabor Kotschy A24

What is ‘Hereditary’ about?

As if growing up and becoming your parents isn’t scary enough, Aster’s Hereditary puts a whole new spin on transgenerational horror. 

After the passing of the family matriarch, the Graham family is haunted by a series of increasingly disturbing, tragic events that lead them to believe that they have inherited something ancient, evil … and perhaps unstoppable. 

The horror of Hereditary comes from the sheer powerlessness the family feels in the shadow of death, grief, and a looming sense of tragedy that Greek storytellers would gaze at in awe. The majority of the movie takes place in the dark, which adds to the overall sense of terror and dread Aster so cleverly creates in his first feature length film. 

Unlike many modern horror films, Hereditary does not rely on gore or jump scares to create a scary atmosphere. The scares are truly and utterly psychological. When the film does show gore or an unexpected jump scare, the impact is even greater because of how rarely it appears. 

The most memorable parts of Hereditary are Toni Collette’s performance as the mother, Annie Graham, and of course, the horrifying climax and reveal toward the end of the film. Overall, Hereditary is a slow burn that leaves viewers ablaze with terror and shock by the time the credits roll. 

Alex Wolff
Alex Wolff | The New York Times A24

What is ‘Midsommar’ about?

What could be scarier than graduate school and trying to revive a dying romance? Aster answers this question with Midsommar.  

After suffering a horrific family tragedy, Dani and her boyfriend Christian travel to Sweden to enjoy a pastoral midsummer festival that soon turns into a nightmare once the true intentions of the community are revealed. 

Loaded with references to the classic horror film The Wicker Man, Aster’s Midsommar is comprised of more subtle notes of terror than most horror films. The scares are tied to mental illness, drug use, and relationship turmoil. In fact, the flick is similar to Darren Aronofsky’s Mother due to its graphic, horrifying elements along with its lack of a traditional horror formula. 

Midsommar pulls no punches when it comes to displaying graphic gore. While the film isn’t gratuitous in its depiction of violence and suffering, the nature of the gore is horrifically realistic and enough to turn some stomachs. There is enough grotesque imagery that will remain burned in the memories of viewers with as much light as the film boasts throughout its nearly two and a half-hour run time. 

Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor
Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor | Photo by Gabor Kotschy A24

Which Film is More Terrifying?

The difference between Midsommar and Hereditary is literally night and day. 

Hereditary is a well-woven, slow-burn film centered around realistic family drama, grief and inherited terror. The horror of Midsommar comes from the implications of mental illness, relationship disintegration and, of course, communal cult-like bonds.

Ari Aster
Ari Aster | Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The scares from Hereditary, being somehow more realistic and gut-wrenching, make it altogether the superior horror film. Midsommar is a horrific experience, but its formula and themes keep it from containing the action and pacing that would make it a true horror movie. 

For a true, gritty horror experience, trade in your flower crowns for funeral wreaths with Aster’s Hereditary.  

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