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  • Writer's pictureAbby Brenker

Midsommar and The Wicker Man: The Best May Day Inspired Horror

Midsommar (2019) and The Wicker Man (1973) are two stunningly bright horror films inspired by the pagan festivals associated with May 1st. Spoilers. Let's talk about the best May Day inspired horror films.

Perhaps the most iconic May Day horror film is The Wicker Man from 1973. This British folk horror masterpiece has become a cult classic. It tells the story of a detective who travels to a small Scottish Island to investigate a missing child case, only to encounter the strange rituals of those who live there. Campy and bizarre in its own way. It was directed by Robin Hardy, stars Christopher Lee and is based on the novel by David Pinner called Ritual. It has very positive scores on Rotten Tomatoes. There is also a 2006 remake starring Nicholas Cage. 

Modern horror lovers are very familiar with Ari Astor’s Midsommer. Which despite its purely fiction lens, does represent some traditions associated with May Day historically. For example, a may pole, may queen, may day dance. 

Midsommar and The Wicker Man have a lot in common, despite their starkly different settings and plots. At their core, each explores being the outsider. Our protagonists slowly start to piece together the darker rituals that will inevitably come to pass as part of the holiday. This villainization of these cultures is fascinating to me. Obviously from a modern lens, human sacrifice is not something that is broadly accepted. 

Some audience members, myself included, will come to side with the murderers in these movies. For two very different reasons. In Midsommar, it's more a feeling that Christian deserves what he gets, sold with Dani’s telling smile at the end. In The Wicker Man, it’s more a feeling of protecting the culture that has been practicing their sacred rituals for centuries. 

In any case, the harsh reality is that the history of May Day festivals is indeed dark. The history of Christian holidays is also dark. And in a lot of cases these different religions blended. These films don’t shy away from these facts, and in turn, use them to horrify us. 

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