Ari Aster's new horror film Midsommar has an ending that's about as horrifying as you'd expect from the writer-director who made last year's Hereditary. The film stars Florence Pugh as Dani, a young woman who suffers the devastating loss of her family when her bipolar sister kills herself and their parents with carbon monoxide. Looking for an escape, Dani follows her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) on a trip with his friends to a folk festival in Sweden, run by a commune that Christian's friend Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) grew up in.

Hårga at first seems like paradise - full of soft music, white clothes, flower-picking, and dancing. However, things take a dark turn during the first ceremony, when two elders of the commune commit ritualistic suicide. As Dani and Christian's friends begin disappearing one by one, it becomes clear that there's something very dark going on behind the scenes of the Midsommar festivities.

Related: The Best Horror Movies of 2018

Drawn into Hårga's culture and traditions by curiosity, a search for belonging, and the hypnotic nature of the Midsommar rituals, Dani and Christian each become a central part of Midsommar's grim final ceremony. Here's how Midsommar movie ends, and what it all means.

What the Hell Happened In Midsommar's Ending?

Midsommar's Sweden natives

Midsommar's ending reveals that Pelle lured his friends to Hårga so that they could be used in the festival's rituals of mating and sacrifice. His brother, Ingemar (Hampus Hallberg), did the same, bringing two friends from London. All of the outsiders except for Dani and Christian have been quietly killed off during the week, because each of them failed in some way: Mark (Will Poulter) urinated on a sacred burial ground, Simon (Archie Madekwe) and Connie (Ellora Torchia) tried to leave, and Josh (William Jackson Harper) tried to take photos of one of Hårga's sacred texts after being forbidden from doing so. Christian is chosen to "mate" with one of Hårga's young women, while Dani takes part in a ritual dance and is crowned May Queen.

In the final ceremony of the Midsommar festival, nine human sacrifices are made in the yellow pyramid-shaped temple that Dani was told not to enter. The sacrifices are an offering of life in exchange for life, and every year the May Queen chooses the final and most important sacrifice. Dani chooses Christian to be sacrificed, and he is sewn into a bear skin and placed at the center of the temple. Dani and the Hårgans watch as the temple is burned, and afterwards Dani presumably stays in Hårga, having become part of the community.

The Hårga Commune In Midsommar Explained

Midsommar soundtrack poster

Pelle lays out the life cycle of Hårgans for his friends shortly after they arrive in the commune. The life of each member of the community is divided into four seasons, each lasting 18 years. Childhood (spring) lasts from ages 0 to 18, and from ages 18 to 36 (summer) young people leave on a pilgrimage, spending those years living in other places around the world. They return to the commune and work from ages 36 to 54 (fall), and from ages 54 to 72 (winter) they lead the community as elders.

As Dani and her fellow outsiders find out in a horrifying fashion, Hårgans who live to the age of 72 end their lives in a ritual where they jump from a high cliff onto a rock below. Those who don't die during the fall are killed afterwards by being struck repeatedly on the head with a large wooden mallet. The dead bodies are then cremated and the ashes are scattered around a sacred ancestral tree.

The Hårgans deal with the challenge of a small gene pool by having members of the family who are on their pilgrimage bring "new bloods" back to the community. This is foreshadowed towards the start of the movie, in a conversation about how Swedish women are so beautiful because the Vikings captured the best women from around the world and brought them back to their own country. It's implied by the ethnic homogeneity of the community that only white outsiders are permitted to "mate" with the Hårgans, while people of color like Josh and Connie are brought in purely for the purposes of ritual sacrifice. There are some exceptions to the rules against incest; cousins in Hårga are sometimes permitted to mate, and each generation has an "unclouded" oracle who is the deliberate product of inbreeding. And that brings us to Midsommar's ending.

Related: Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper and Vilhelm Blomgren Interview: Midsommar

The May Queen and the Mating Ritual In Midsommar Explained

As Midsommar moves towards its ending, all of Dani and Christian's friends have (unbeknown to them) been killed. Dani and Christian's relationship has long been troubled, and the Hårgans deliberately work to drive them further apart, with Pelle getting closer to Dani and Maja (Isabelle Grill) carrying out rituals to cast a love spell on Christian. This series of rituals is revealed shortly after the outsiders arrive in Hårga, when Connie and Simon examine a tapestry that shows a woman falling in love with a man, placing flowers under his pillow, and then hiding her pubic hair in his food - resulting in the man falling in love with and impregnating her.

Maja hides a love rune under Christian's bed and bakes her pubic hair into a pie that he eats. Later, Christian has a meeting with Hårga elder Siv (Gunnel Fred), where she tells him that he has been granted permission to mate with Maja. During the May Queen celebrations, Christian is given a drink with hallucinogenic properties, and then flower petals are laid out to create a path for him to the barn where Maja is waiting. He is made to inhale steam that gives him "vitality," and then has sex with Maja while surrounded by a group of Hårga's older women, who sing and urge him on. When he is finished, Maja declares that she can feel herself becoming pregnant - at which point Christian has, unfortunately for him, outlived his usefulness.

Meanwhile, Dani takes part in a ritualistic dance, based on a story about how the devil disguised himself as a fiddler, came to Hårga, and forced people to dance until they died. The young women of Hårga drink a drugged tea and then dance around a maypole until they fall down from exhaustion. Whomever is left standing last is declared that year's May Queen - and this Midsommar, that person is Dani. She is given a flower crown and pride of place at the May Queen feast, and then taken to bless the harvest and animals. The final step is for Dani to be accepted by the Hårgan elders, but she hears the singing from the mating ritual and walks to the barn. She peers through the door, sees Christian having sex with Maja, and begins crying hysterically. The young women of Hårga gather around her and cry with her, matching her screams.

Related: Ari Aster and Jack Reynor Interview: Midsommar

The Nine Human Sacrifices At The End Of Midsommar Explained

Midsommar Ritual Human Sacrifice

In Midsommar's ending we see the final part of the festival's twisted traditions, as nine human sacrifices are offered up to the gods in exchange for nine new lives, in the form of babies conceived during the Midsommar celebrations. According to Hårgan tradition, these nine human sacrifices must be made up of four new bloods, four native Hårgans, and a final sacrifice - chosen by the May Queen between the options of a randomly selected Hårgan and a new blood. By the end of the movie, four of the new blood sacrifices have already been made: British visitors Connie and Simon, and Christian's friends Josh and Mark.

Two Hårgans have also already been sacrificed, dismembered, and turned into strange art pieces that are displayed during the final ceremony. Two other Hårgans are chosen for the sacrifice because they succeeded in bringing new bloods to the community: Pelle's brother, Ingemar, and another man called Ulf (Henrik Norlén). It's heavily implied that Pelle's own parents were sacrificed in their own time, as Pelle tells Dani that they burned in a fire when he was a child. However, having brought the May Queen to Hårga, Pelle is spared from being sacrificed and instead given the highest honors.

Christian attempts to escape after the mating ritual, and runs into a chicken coop where he finds Simon's body suspended into the air and turned into a "blood eagle" - a method of ritual killing where the ribs have been removed from his back and his lungs pulled out to create the appearance of wings. Due to Christian's drugged-up state, the lungs appear to be breathing. Christian is caught and has a powder blown in his face that paralyzes him, rendering him unable to speak or move. He is brought before Dani, and she is given the choice to sacrifice either Christian or the randomly-selected Hårgan. Dani chooses Christian, and he is sewn into a bear skin and brought to the sacred temple, where he is made the centerpiece of the sacrifice - representing all that is unholy, which the Hårgans wish to cast out.

The bodies of the other sacrifices are also brought to the temple and placed around the walls. One of Josh's legs has been cut off and, as Christian saw earlier, buried in the garden like a flower. Meanwhile, the only thing left of Mark is his skinned face and scalp, which has been placed on a straw dummy and given a jester's hat. This was foreshadowed earlier in the movie, when the group saw some Hårgan children playing a game called "skin the fool." The straw in the sacred temple is set on fire and begins to the burn the whole building down. Christian, who is still paralyzed, makes no sound as he burns to death inside the bear skin, but Ingemar and Ulf scream as the fire consumes them. The Hårgans watching outside the temple scream and thrash along with them. Dani staggers around in her May Queen costume, sobbing, but eventually calms down and then smiles as she watches the temple burn - which is where Midsommar ends.

Related: Hereditary's Ending Explained

Why Dani Killed Christian At The End Of Midsommar

Jack Reynor and Florence Pugh in Midsommar

Since Dani had the option to spare her boyfriend and have a stranger be the centerpiece of the sacrifice at the end of Midsommar, some way wonder why she specifically decides to kill Christian. The answer to that is complex, but a good place to start is the fact that Dani isn't exactly in her right mind at the end of the movie. She's been given drugged tea that's causing her to have strange visions, danced to the point of exhaustion, and experienced the emotional trauma of seeing Christian have sex with another woman, followed by a release of emotion with her newfound sisters. By the time she's on stage in her enormous flowery gown, Dani looks pretty out of it, but the one thing she does seem to be aware of is that Christian has hurt her. Moreover, she also seems to recognize that Christian is the best choice for the sacrifice that represents the exorcism of evil from the community, because he - not the Hårgans - is the source of her pain.

The Real Meaning of Midsommar's Ending

A woman holding onto Dani's face as she yells in Midsommar

The core theme running through Midsommar is one of belonging. At the start of the movie, Dani is extremely isolated. Christian has, according to his friends, wanted out of the relationship for more than a year (we later learn that Christian forgot not only their four-year anniversary, but also Dani's birthday). Mark in particular despises Dani and keeps telling Christian to break up with her, and she is made to feel like an outsider and an annoyance whenever the group are all together. With her sister and parents dead and her relationship falling apart, Dani is more or less completely alone when she arrives in Hårga.

The scene near the end of Midsommar where Dani sobs and her new "sisters" huddle around her, turning her cries into a chorus, is a parallel of the scene towards the start of the movie when Christian holds Dani silently as she cries about her family's deaths. It's both literally and figuratively the feeling of being "held" that Pelle talks about with Dani - a sense of belonging and being home, which Christian could not give her. We see the Hårgans practising this ritual sharing of emotion at several points in the movie: when the elderly man jumps from the cliff and shatters his legs, the community screams along with him; when Christian and Maja are having sex, the women around them echo their cries; and finally, when Ingemar and Ulf scream as they burn, everyone screams along with them.

This is why Dani smiles at the very end of Midsommar, despite the horrors of what's happening around her. At the start of the movie she was shunned and rejected, and now she is beloved and worshipped. She came to Hårga with no family, and now she has a new family. The ritual sacrifice is a catharsis not only for Hårga, but for Dani as well. As Christian burns in his bear skin, he represents the symbolic casting out of evil for the community, and the exorcism of Dani's pain and grief. Midsommar's ending is about letting go of a bad relationship and opening yourself up to a better one - in a very twisted way, of course.

More: Read Screen Rant's Review of Midsommar