Midsommar (2019) ended 2010s horror on a high, being an unsettling and traumatic film about grief, a broken relationship that was in the slow process of dying, and a nightmarish trip to Sweden. It felt unique upon release, thanks to the way it paired a grounded story about a prolonged breakup with a more outwardly unsettling premise involving a pagan cult, as well as the way it had the majority of its horror scenes occur in broad daylight.
It successfully mixed elements from previous “folk horror” movies into something distinct, though that does mean there are other examples from the horror genre out there that deliver similar scares, or otherwise have comparable vibes. The following movies generally (though not exclusively) pre-date Midsommar, and will likely appeal to viewers who enjoyed – or were terrified by – Ari Aster’s second feature film.
Though the plot is different, the visuals and overall style present in The Wicker Man make it arguably the most obvious influence on Midsommar. It takes place on a strange island, following an outsider – a police sergeant – as he visits the place, finds its population increasingly unsettling, and struggles to make progress on finding a young girl who went missing (the reason he went there in the first place).
Like Midsommar, The Wicker Man is a slow-burn horror film with a mysterious cult at its center, and it remains unnerving despite (or because of) being set generally outdoors and often feeling more brightly lit than most horror movies. Avoid the notorious 2006 remake at all costs, but the original from 1973 endures as a horror classic.
After making a series of distressing and sometimes controversial short films throughout the early and mid-2010s, Hereditary was released in 2018 as Ari Aster’s feature film debut. It follows a family that’s slowly torn apart by grief, all the while finding themselves manipulated by some sort of strange coven that has links to their ancestry.
Calling it a bleak and depressing movie would be an understatement, and for as raw as the opening sequence in Midsommar was, parts of Hereditary prove themselves to be even more disturbing. Though the plot and setting stand apart from Midsommar, Hereditary remains comparable thanks to the themes and the uncompromisingly disturbing places it goes, as well as, of course, being written and directed by the same filmmaker.
The Witch is set close to 400 years ago, though still manages to serve up plenty of folk horror scares that will unsettle modern-day viewers. The plot centers on a family that gets exiled from their settlement due to a religious disagreement and, while isolated, find themselves plagued by a series of bizarre and increasingly dangerous events.
It was the debut feature film for Robert Eggers, and instantly established him as an exciting new voice within the horror genre (he’s since gone on to make increasingly more ambitious movies, like 2019’s The Lighthouse and 2022’s The Northman). As far as slow-burn, predominantly subtle horror movies from the 2010s go, The Witch is undoubtedly up there as one of the best.
A wonderfully unpredictable and subversive horror/thriller movie, Barbarian ended up being one of the best releases for the genre in 2022, if not the best. It follows a young woman who arrives at an Airbnb, finds out it’s accidentally been double-booked, and then proceeds to have uneasy interactions with the other person there (further complicated when they find out what else lies within the strange house).
Midsommar was a movie that aimed to shock viewers within the first 10 minutes, keeping them on edge for what follows. Barbarian takes a little more time to reach that territory, but once it does, it ends up being a rollercoaster of a movie, making it hard to guess where it goes next. Also, both movies mine much of their horror from having their protagonists visit unfamiliar locations with dark secrets (admittedly, Barbarian’s Detroit setting isn’t quite as novel or otherworldly as rural Sweden… at least not at first).
With Apostle, director Gareth Evans moved away from the action genre, which he’d developed a mastery of with 2011’s The Raid and its 2014 sequel. Apostle is instead a slow and relatively subtle movie, at least before it explodes with some grisly violence and bloodshed that may make viewers recall the similarly brutal The Raid movies (and for what it’s worth, Midsommar could get pretty gory, too).
The story’s set at the beginning of the 20th century, and follows a man who goes to a remote island in search of his younger sister, as he believes she’s been kidnapped by a religious cult. It’s got an isolated setting, a cult, visceral violence, and depicts horrific sights in the daylight, meaning it scratches a similar itch to Midsommar, which was released one year later.
The career trajectory of Alex Garland – as far as his directorial efforts are concerned – has been an interesting one. 2014 saw him release Ex Machina, which was a science-fiction movie, 2018 had him direct Annihilation, which combined sci-fi and horror, and then in 2022, he released Men, which is almost exclusively a film belonging to the horror genre.
Men deals with a young, grieving woman taking a journey to the countryside on her own, only to find the town she’s staying in to be an incredibly unsettling and eventually nightmarish one. It’s another film about the horrors of grief, and how such horrors are compounded when a grieving character is confronted by more traditional horror movie-type scenarios, making for a tough and effectively creepy watch.
Antichrist is unafraid to be a strange and relentlessly confronting horror movie, which is what you’d probably expect from a filmmaker like Lars von Trier stepping into the genre. It centers on a married couple who lose a child before traveling deep into the forest to try and heal emotionally and mend their fractured relationship, only for things to just get worse.
It’s the kind of movie that might prove to be too much for some viewers, so it can only really be recommended to those who don’t mind their horror getting extreme. For its setting, brutal violence, and distressing narrative, comparisons certainly can be made between it and Midsommar.
A low-budget hit that made found footage movies very popular for numerous years after its release, The Blair Witch Project is a landmark film within the broader horror genre. It’s about three film students making a documentary in the woods, uncovering something sinister, and then supposedly disappearing, with what they filmed being the only evidence to explain what might’ve happened.
It wasn’t the first low-budget horror movie to find success by any means, but few had been made for quite so little money and proven as profitable as The Blair Witch Project did. The presentation is different, but it successfully makes wide-open outdoor spaces scary in a similar manner to Midsommar and various other movies that incorporate folk horror elements.
The Invitation starts innocuously enough, with a couple – Will and Kira – being invited to dinner with a group of friends one night. It’s being held at the house of one of Will’s ex-girlfriends, and her new partner – David – seems to have some sort of ulterior motive for hosting the party, or at least that’s what Will begins to suspect.
It’s a movie that’s happy to draw things out, using the lack of certainty about what’s going on to make viewers feel as uneasy as the main characters do. With horror elements that spring from (literally) being invited somewhere, and a narrative dealing with breakups and ex-partners, The Invitation does have at least a couple of similarities to Midsommar.
Ari Aster’s third movie, Beau Is Afraid, is admittedly a little different from Hereditary and Midsommar. With a three-hour runtime, it’s noticeably longer than his two previous theatrically-released films, and it’s probably less horror-focused overall, too, instead aiming to be darkly comedic, and with a surrealistic bent to the film overall that sometimes finds itself turning nightmarish.
Even if it’s not as easily identifiable as a horror movie, it has a similar anxious feeling to it that can be found in Aster’s other films. It certainly makes for a unique viewing experience, and commits to its tense, sprawling, oddly-paced, and heavily psychological narrative with an admirable ferocity and/or brazenness.
NEXT: The Best Horror Movies That Premiered at Cannes, Ranked