10 Uncomfortable Movies Like ‘Midsommar’
Cults? Scares? Unsettling atmospheres? I got you.
Grief is a frequent theme explored in the horror genre. Midsommar (2019) certainly isn’t the first horror film to unpack it. But Dani (Florence Pugh)’s grief is depicted in such a raw way that it’s hard not to feel uncomfortable while watching the film. There are many tremendous horror films in the A24 catalog and Midsommar is certainly one that evokes unsettling feelings.
If you’re looking to dive into other uncomfortable horror films, I’ve got some recommendations for you. The following films are mostly about grief and/or have an unsettling atmosphere. Don’t worry, you don’t need a May Queen outfit to read this.
10. The Descent (2005)
There’s so much to praise about The Descent, which is still regarded as one of the best horror films of the 2000s. The film follows a group of girlfriends who go on a cave expedition and are thrust into chaos when they encounter crafty humanoid creatures. Naturally, the claustrophobic feeling of being stuck in a cave is unsettling enough. But the main character, Sarah Carter (Shauna Macdonald), is navigating the loss of her daughter and husband. Grief hangs heavy over this film and the events are enough to make a person squirm in their seat.
9. The House of the Devil (2009)
The slow build is part of the magic of The House of the Devil, as it soon leads to disturbing events. Director Ti West (X, Pearl) knew exactly how to capture the essence of older horror films and transport us to the ’80s. The plot follows Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) who takes a strange babysitting job because she’s desperate for cash. But the job isn’t what it seems, and soon she is fighting to survive the night. The film is not remotely what you might expect. Cults? Creepy old folks? There’s something to be said for a familiar story well told.
8. Antichrist (2009)
As a horror fan who has seen plenty of batshit horror movies, it takes a lot to unnerve me. But Antichrist shook me enough to consider whether I ever wanted to watch it again. The film follows a couple who lose their son in a horrible accident. The husband (Willem Dafoe) takes his wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) to the wilderness as an exercise in exposure therapy, but disturbing events start to unfold. It’s important to note that writer/director Lars von Trier’s own struggles with depression and anxiety heavily influenced this film. And it’s quite obvious because Antichrist is a very raw experience that doesn’t let up. Please heed any warnings that you read about this film. It’s not for the faint of heart.
7. The Invitation (2015)
Repressing grief can be more detrimental than grief itself. The Invitation differs from Midsommar in that way, but they both address grief, cults, and the perils of the people you think you know. The plot follows Will (Logan Marshall-Green) who goes to a dinner party being thrown by his ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard). Rather than deal with memories of his son, Will is thrust into a disturbing evening alongside his girlfriend (Emayatzy Corinealdi). It’s an eerie horror film and deserves far more praise than it initially received. Plus Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body) directed it!
6. The Witch (2015)
Horror can explore any theme and render it more frightening or disturbing than it already is. The VVitch not only tackles grief, but it also unpacks the cult mentality of the ultra-religious. The film follows a family in the 1600s that is banished from their settlement. The family is then forced to create a new life for themselves in the middle of nowhere, only to discover there are forces they can’t control. Anya Taylor-Joy delivers a tremendous performance and that ending is iconic. Also shout-out to Charlie the goat who plays Black Phillip!
5. Mother! (2017)
The sheer chaos of Mother! is more than you can possibly imagine. Essentially it’s about Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) and Him (Javier Bardem) who are about to have a baby. As soon as people start invading Mother’s home, everything descends into chaos. Revealing anything more will ruin the experience of watching Darren Aronofsky’s (Black Swan) film for the first time. Believe me, it’s more uncomfortable than anything you could possibly feel while watching Midsommar.
4. The Ritual (2017)
Nothing is scarier than getting lost in the woods and experiencing terrifying phenomena you can’t explain. We’ve seen plenty of horror films with that premise! The Ritual follows a group of friends that go on a hiking trip in Sweden to honor their deceased friend. Unfortunately for the friends, there’s evil in the woods they weren’t prepared to deal with. Cults that worship ancient deities always throw a wrench into your weekend camping trip.
3. Hereditary (2018)
I apologize if this is a cliché addition to the list, but I couldn’t help but include it. In my eyes, Hereditary is the better film when propped up beside Midsommar. Both Ari Aster films focus on the destructive power of grief. The plot follows a family that goes through a tragic loss that brings about a disturbing chain of events. Everyone goes through it and there is quite literally no happy ending for the family. And you’re in for one hell of a performance from Toni Colette.
2. The Lodge (2019)
Trauma combined with isolation in the middle of nowhere is a recipe for disaster. The Lodge may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure is a creepy-as-fuck time. Essentially the film is about a pair of siblings (Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh) who are left to bond with their soon-to-be step-mom (Riley Keough) while their dad tends to work obligations. The chain of events that occur because of the siblings are … unsettling and altogether avoidable. The Lodge doesn’t fail in its efforts to scare and make people uncomfortable. Extremist cult trauma is very real and there’s no telling how far you can push a person.
1. Men (2022)
A24’s horror catalog isn’t one-note and Men proves that. Men follows Harper (Jessie Buckley) who goes on a vacation to process the death of her husband (Paapa Essiedu). But her trip turns sour when she can’t seem to escape men (all played by Rory Kinnear) who taunt and torment her. Alex Garland’s film is very on the nose with its messaging and that may not work for everyone. However, I think it does capture the complexities of losing someone you may not have had a good relationship with. Harper suffers quite a lot throughout the film and somehow comes out on the other side. Of course, not after first suffering and witnessing some extreme body horror.
(featured image: A24)
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