Ari Aster's Midsommar follow-up to Hereditary doubles down on the filmmaker's penchant for graphic violence combined with complex stories and sophisticated cinematography. CBR spoke with Jack Reynor (Strange Angel), who plays Christian, protagonist Dani's less-than-stand-up fella. But despite the character arguably serving as the film's primary antagonist, Reynor found more dimension in Christian than might have been typical in more mainstream horror.

Midsommar follows Christian and Dani as they drag their flagging relationship to a solstice festival in remote Sweden. The couple was having significant problems before the trip, given Dani's high emotional needs and Christian's lack of desire to be there for her. His friends encouraged him to break up with her and jet off to Sweden with them, but after Dani suffers a major trauma, Christian instead invites her to come along. What follows is a long and winding road down a dark path as the four friends realize they've gotten themselves into something far less benign than a simple summer festival.

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The uniqueness of the film and character was what piqued Reynor's interest, and he had much to say in the way of praise for the story of Midsommar as well as the experience making it.

CBR: Hi, Jack, I got a chance to see the film last night, and it was an experience -- truly very unique.

Jack Reynor: How did you sleep that night? Was it a troubled sleep? Cause it certainly was for me when I watched that.

I think I just started closing my eyes whenever necessary, and that helped.

One of our castmates – I’m not gonna tell you who it is – the night that we watched the movie he had a dream he was in one of the outhouses on the set and that he was strapped to a chair with a headphones basically stuck on his head and a Swedish voice telling him to kill himself. He woke up in tears – he’s never woken up crying before, but he woke up crying as a result.

I'm not at all surprised. What were your thoughts when you read the script?

Well, it was funny because when I read it, I was kind of led to believe that it was just another addition to the torture porn genre, just set in Sweden. … And as much as I am a lover of horror, that's not the kind of film that really interests me, so when I actually read the script and found in fact that in fact it was a very personal film with pretty substantial characters and there was a lot more happening in the film than just gory violence and people having awful shit done to them and I was really interested in it. And of course there are a couple of scenes that in the movie that are really unique and are not things that you’re typically seeing in contemporary cinema. So, I was kind of ... my interest was piqued.

And then I went and I sat down with Ari and I’d seen Ari’s short films and I definitely felt that he was a very unique filmmaker and that he had a lot of skill and a lot of obviously cinema culture backing up what he was doing. So we sat down together and we had a great chat about directors who we both share a common admiration for and he laid out his vision for the project and how he wanted to execute it and you know once I heard all of his plans for it I was in, that was it, there was no way I could turn it down after that.

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Had you seen Hereditary at that point?

No, Hereditary hadn’t been released. It was off the back of a short, but I think they’re just as impressive and just as unique.

It's so fascinating to me that his work can be so gory and yet somehow so refreshing at the same time. Because it's just so different and looks so different from anything currently in horror.

It’s interesting seeing how the genre is having a kind of a rebirth that there is a new level of prestige that we haven’t seen in a long time in horror films or in films where suspense is kind of primary element. This is a kind of resurgence of that culture. And it’s great to see that now an audience that’s willing to sit down through something that has a very refined and measured and intricate style of cinematography in the context of a horror film. It’s great. It’s refreshing to see that kind of thing.

I wanted to turn the questions to your specific experience now. I was wondering, despite his fairly damning characterization, do you find Christian sympathetic?

Sympathetic is probably not the word – I am I think empathetic because Christian – and I’ve said this in a lot of interviews – but I think that there’s a distinction that’s worth acknowledging between a character being a villain and a character being an antagonist. And think in order to be a villain you have to actively go about the work of trying to cause harm to other people. That’s what a villain [does], that’s what a villain is.

I think Christian is somebody all of us, male or female, can relate to in that no matter what kind of relationship whether it’s a relationship with a friend or a family member or somebody who you’re having a romantic relationship with. We all at times have a capacity to be insensitive or to be lacking in emotional availability to our partner or lacking in commitment in the way we ought to be to the people that we’re responsible to sometimes. And I think we’re all guilty of that at different points in our life just as we can all relate to Dani’s perspective of being somebody who has emotional needs that aren’t being met in the relationship and who is experiencing trauma and is left feeling isolated in the middle of it.

So that was what really interested me in the script is that this is a complex relationship between two characters, and it’s not as clear as this guy is just a bad guy and he’s a villain and [Dani]'s just suffering through her tragedy and nobody’s looking after her. I think that there’s more going than that in the film. So that was really like what was kind of interesting to me and what as the challenge as an actor was to try to inject some of those more empathetic kind of elements into a character who is by design kind of an archetypal toxic alpha male character.

Yeah, he's far from shameless, it feels. He seems like he’s at least trying to do the right thing.

Yeah, he’s trying to do the right thing, but he’s not the right guy to do the right thing. Certainly not in this relationship anyway. That’s where the interest lies and also the thing about it is what’s great for me as an actor to have the opportunity to do, is to establish this character who would give it those characteristics that I’m talking about - the archetypal alpha male toxicity - and throughout the course of the film that is all piece by piece stripped away from him until the point where he is literally, completely stripped bare and is paying the price for ever having been that [toxic] and suffering the humiliating fate and exposing kind of fate that he does.

Do you think everybody gets what they deserve? Was there karma wrapped up in deaths of any other major characters?

Realistically speaking I don’t think anybody deserves to die especially not for transgressions such as the ones we’re talking about in this film. (laughter) I think on a symbolic level, each of these people are kind of going through a sort of a – as much as its their death it’s a also kind of a metamorphosis. It’s a reckoning of sorts, I know certainly for my character there is an awareness, when we reach the end of the film despite the constrictive nature of his situation at the end of the film and how he’s not really in control of anything anymore there is definitely a recognition on his part of his failing and a regretfullness and a sadness. And I don’t know if there’s any absolution in that, but it is definitely a case of you’re gonna pay the price if you transgress and you’re gonna pay the price if you’re lacking in the things you should be open and available for.

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