If the young American college students in this film had ever seen the 1973 mystery film, The Wicker Man, they would never have done any of the following: travelled to Sweden to stay on some kind of hippy, culty commune at the behest of one of their mates; timed the visit to coincide with a massive once-in-every-ninety-years festival to celebrate the arrival of Mid-summer; allowed themselves to be disorientated and confused as a result of drugs pressed upon them by their so-called Swedish ‘mates’; watched an horrific ceremony involving geronticide- or old people euthanasia- without a murmur of protest or so much as a what the fuck is going on here in this fucked-up fucking place???; had public sex as part of a bizarre fertility ritual and, lastly, they certainly wouldn’t have allowed themselves to become mere kindling on the eventual, terrible fire of sacrifice…

Yes, dear reader, a quick watch of The Wicker Man would have solved those little problems for them all right. The Wicker Man did it first and The Wicker Man did it better. Midsommar is still a great watch, though, if a little long at one-hundred-and-fifty minutes.

Dani is a psychology student who falls to pieces when her sister Terri commits suicide, selfishly taking their parents into the afterlife with her. Her boyfriend Christian, a cultural anthropology student, had been just about to dump Dani for her clinginess and neediness but now, after her family tragedy, he feels like he can’t do it. But their relationship is so unhealthy and Dani so emotionally needy that it would almost be a kindness to give her the push, dead family or not, and put this unhealthy relationship out of its misery.

Instead, he reluctantly invites her along on the trip to Sweden, much to the disgust of all his college mates… all except the Swedish one, who can clearly see a place for Dani in the festivities to come. Christian, Dani, Josh, Mark and Pelle, the Swedish guy, all travel from the States to the commune of the Harga in Sweden, set in splendid rural isolation amongst some of nature’s most fabulous glories.

Christian, who’s still stuck for a subject for his thesis, decides that the secluded cult of the Harga would make an ideal subject, and that’s why he doesn’t push to leave the commune when they all witness a geronticide so appalling that it genuinely would give you nightmares.

The cult leaders explain it away and tell the shocked students that it’s actually a joyous occasion for the geriatrics involved, but it doesn’t look joyous to me, or to Dani. It just looks barbaric, completely and utterly barbaric.

One gets the feeling that the American kids, plus a young couple from London, are being gaslit, in pretty much the same manner as poor old Sgt. Neil Howie in The Wicker Man, into believing that no harm can come to them in a commune where everyone wears flowing white robes and garlands of flowers and lives off the land in an atmosphere of peace and love, learning and harmony. Drugged-up, free-love-having, non-believing-in-Jesus hippies, lol.

The Harga people’s ‘Wicker Man’ is a triangle-shaped, man-made oddity that’s curiously at odds with the scenes of nature all around it. It doesn’t take a genius to work out why these post-grads have been lured from America with the promise of experiencing the fascinating indigenous rituals and ceremonies of another country’s Mid-summer festival.

But the film is still worth watching right to the end of the one-hundred-and-fifty minutes, just to see how Ari Aster, the director of Hereditary, achieves a sort of re-make of The Wicker Man, but without actually mentioning that this is what he’s doing.

It seems at times like the film is a bit crowded, a wee bit too busy, as the director tries to cram as many rituals as he can into the one festival, but how-and-ever. The violence in the film is hard to stomach. Some images are extremely disturbing, while others don’t make much sense or are confusing, misleading.

Some of the rituals, especially the ones that take place at the outside tables during meal-times, go on a bit too long and my mind started to wander for a bit. Male frontal nudity is in evidence in the film too, plus the fiery come-uppance of a cheating scumbag of a boyfriend, lol.

It’s a gorgeous film to look at, with a suitably unsettling score, but I said it earlier and I’ll say it again: The Wicker Man did it first and The Wicker Man did it better. That doesn’t mean that directors shouldn’t try to make a film about a pagan cult who worship the old gods and approve of group sex and human sacrifice. It just means that they have to try to make it a bit different to its predecessors. Does Midsommar succeed in this? I’ll be nice, and give it five out of ten.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:


hereditary mom



‘It’s a neutral view of the accident…!’

Often, my first experience of a film that’s been released in the cinema to great acclaim is to watch it when the DVD comes out and everyone’s moved onto something else. That’s because, being a writer, I genuinely don’t get out much. Always slaving away at my desk trying to leave something worthwhile behind for humanity, lol.

Anyway, this is one film I bloody wish I’d seen on the big screen. Every second I spent watching the DVD was electrifying, it’s that good. Watching it unfold scene by scene at the cinema for the first time ever must have been a fantastic experience, not the kind you’re likely to forget any time soon.

HEREDITARY stars Toni Collette (MURIEL’S WEDDING, ABOUT A BOY, IMPERIUM), an actress who just seems to be getting better and better as she grows older. She steals the show completely in this film. She’s an absolute powerhouse in it. She plays Annie Graham, an artist, wife and mother who, when we meet her first, is getting ready to bury her mother.

It’s possibly most difficult to bury the mothers with whom we didn’t get along and with whom we have a troubled history, because there’s so much guilt involved, terrible, terrible guilt that makes for very heavy carrying. The ones we loved and were loved by, well, those deaths are bad enough to cope with, but anything more complicated, fuhgeddaboutit.

Annie is having trouble coping with her mother Ellen’s death, because they only seemed to get on intermittently and there’s a long complex back-story there. Annie even goes to a bereavement group that meets in town to see if it’s any help to her.

I think she shocks the group with how much detail she goes into about exactly how troubled her family history is. You can almost hear the group facilitator saying: ‘Well, it’s usually enough just to say your name, dear, and that you’re a wee bit sad…!’

Annie is married to Steve, played by Gabriel Byrne. (I know he’s Irish, like me, but I’ve never liked him. Too mopey and unsmilingly craggy-faced!) They’re obviously well-off and have a fabulous big house in the middle of an isolated forested area (the film was shot in Utah).

I’m not sure what Dad does (just Googled it, he’s a psychiatrist! Gabriel Byrne with his mopey unsmilingly craggy face would be perfect at playing a shrink, sitting for hours saying nothing with his legs crossed, bored, fiddling with his pen and polishing his specs, lol.), but Mom is a marvellous artist who works in miniatures and has exhibitions of her work and everything.

She creates the most amazing doll-houses and artistic installations featuring tiny people in various exquisitely-realised scenarios. Some of the scenes in the film actually make us feel like we’re looking at tiny little doll-people in a tiny little doll-house. It’s so cleverly done.

Anyway, Mom and Dad are no longer close after x amount of years together, married and bringing up children. Relationship-wise, they’re just going through the motions now. It happens, unfortunately, after that much time together. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.

Peter, their teenager, is introverted, with not much to say for himself. He’s more interested in experimenting with drugs and trying to get girls to notice him than in interacting with his family. He’s absolutely your typical teenager. Annie in particular feels like every time she talks to him, she gets a sneer back and a rude back-answer. Again, par for the course with teenage boys. And girls…!

The Grahams also have a thirteen-year-old daughter, Charlie, who appears to be autistic or otherwise differently-abled, although we’re not sure because it’s not mentioned. Either way, she’s an odd little girl. I mean, is it normal for little girls to calmly cut the heads off dead birds with scissors, or to see their dead grandmothers sitting on the grass surrounded by a bank of flames and not turn a hair?

I’ll probably be lynched for being crass enough to notice this, but the film-makers have actually gone out of their way to make the little girl an ugly figure of menace, with strange unsettling facial features and a dumpy build that reminds one of the evil dwarf in the red duffel coat from Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW. Like, don’t tell me that they didn’t have this film in the back of their minds when they were creating the look for the little girl…!

When Annie urges Peter to take an unwilling Charlie to a school party one night, in an attempt to socialise a child who clearly resents her efforts, an event occurs that might just be the most shockingly unexpected thing you’ve ever seen in a horror film. I mean, if Annie thought she was sad before, well, this is grief the like of which she didn’t even know existed. The family is in crisis. Joan from the bereavement group makes a timely entrance…

I was gripped by this film for the whole one hundred and twenty-two minutes of its duration. (The standard ninety minutes wouldn’t have been sufficient for this meaty horror plot.) Things start to happen fairly quickly after the night of the party and Toni Collette positively acts up a storm. The viewers begin to wonder exactly what the creepy old Grandma Ellen’s deal was in life, and in what way it’s possibly impacting on the Graham family now.

The scares come thick and fast, but not the flashy every-ten-seconds jump-scare-for-the-sake-of-it thing you’re probably familiar with from other modern horror movies. (James Wan, I do love you and keep making those brilliant CONJURING and ANNABELLE movies but I’m looking right at you, lol.) I’m not telling you guys too much for fear of spoilers, though. The film really is too good for that.

I kept being shocked at the plot twists and the freakish occurrences but in a really good way, and in such a way that I didn’t want the film to ever end. And I loved the way the plot moulded itself into one of my favourite horror movie themes in the end. I wasn’t disappointed with the climax, just stunned, and I feel like if I go back and watch the film again, certain things will now make more sense. Verdict? Top-notch stuff. Watch it, before it watches you…!

(PS, down the line, certain people might have to come to terms with the fact that a child’s treehouse may not be, shall we say, the most dignified location for meetings and gatherings of such magnitude, but any port in a storm, as we say.

After all, the Pope doesn’t hold his conclave thingies behind the wheel of the bumper cars at the local funfair, does he, and Donald Trump, the most powerful man on the planet because he’s the boss of the United States of America, wouldn’t be seen dead inviting his fellow politicians to vote on a Very Important Matter while enjoying some time on a bouncy castle on the grass verge out the back of the Whitehouse? Well, actually, as to that last one, I don’t know. I guess anything’s possible…!)


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


You can contact Sandra at: