July 10, 2019
Ari Aster’s latest film depicts the disabled body as something monstrous – recalling the impulses of the genre’s beginnings
Midsommars ableism resurrects the dark history of eugenics-inspired horror
WARNING: contains spoilers!
Other than pornography, there is no film genre so concerned with the body, nor of gouging a reaction from it, than horror. The word is derived the Latin horrēre – which describes how hairs on the nape of the neck bristle when one is flushed with fear or excitement. Often, this reaction is provoked by images of the body itself: The Phantom of the Opera’s disfigured half-face; the flesh of Frankenstein’s monster fixed together with nails; the extreme anaemia of Dracula. All of these fantastically distorted bodies must have raised combfuls of baby hairs by now.
And now to these we must add Ari Aster’s Midsommar, which elicited gasps at the screening I attended when the camera panned to Ruben, “the disabled one” as a character describes him. In keeping with Aster’s previous film Hereditary, in which physical and mental disability provides a metaphor for trauma and familial dysfunction, the disabled body once again becomes the monstrous body, used to convey a monstrous world.
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