Fictitious movies about cults are often a little bit sexy. There's a hint of appeal embedded in a commune—a place where all belong. But given the ritual suicide that takes place in the first 30 minutes of Ari Aster's Midsommar, it's pretty obvious he is not trying to sell you on commune life.

By setting orphaned Dani, her boyfriend, and their friends' summer escapades in the Swedish commune Harga, Aster flips the association of evil with darkness, letting the film scare viewers in broad daylight.

The movie—received better by critics than by audiences—explores moral relativism and collectivism. In one poignant early scene, an elderly couple is pushed to kill themselves. The initially horrified American visitors soon make their peace by speculating that people from other cultures would be equally disgusted by how we treat our elderly.

As Dani and her boyfriend's stilted relationship falls apart, the cult replaces their need for both independence and intimacy. Midsommar provides an unusually apt depiction of a mushroom trip, but its themes are not liberatory. It's an exploration of how cults corrupt people's senses of morality and individualism.