Hereditary was one of the best movies of 2018 - and now, its director has returned with a brand-new nightmare.

Midsommar, the second feature from director Ari Aster, opened with two buzz screenings in the US this week, and the crowds were unanimously impressed - and terrified.

"I absolutely loved #Midsommar," wrote Meagan Navarro from the website Bloody Disgusting. "Ari Aster nails guttural, raw emotion. But this time? So much joy and humour with the f**** up pain. Legit feel good horror for me."

Multiple critics noted that the film was surprisingly comedic - as well as "disturbing".

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"Deeply upsetting and very funny," wrote Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson. "A psychotropic plunge into what death might mean, if it means anything."

"A wickedly funny romp with ugly Americans and freaky Swedes in the woods, a premium cut of one of my favorite subgenres (daytime horror), and just so confidently made," wrote The Atlantic's David Sims.

"I loved every second of this nearly 3 hour movie. Holy S****," wrote Slash Film's Chris Evangelista. "Yeah, it's disturbing. But it's also surprisingly hilarious. An absolutely crowd pleaser. Long live @AriAster."

"MIDSOMMAR will do for Swedish pagan solstice rituals what Psycho did for showers," wrote IndieWire critic David Ehrlich. "In a psychedelic fairy tale about ridding oneself of fear and pain — absolutely delightful from its nightmare of an opening to its floral purge of a finale."

Critics noted that the film is markedly different from the dark, gloomy Hereditary, taking an entirely different tone.

"Ari Aster takes the very idea of a sophomore slump and sets it ablaze," added Sims.

"I was super nervous going into #MIDSOMMAR because of my deep love for Hereditary, but holy s*** you guys, @MidsommarMovie is a masterpiece," wrote Nightmarish Conjurings' Shannon McGrew.

"It's a natural extension of the grim cinematic universe that spawned Hereditary," said Eric Kohn from IndieWire.

"Whereas Hereditary faced (unfounded) complaints about its third act feeling disjointed, Midsommar won't be plagued by such criticisms," wrote Consequence of Sound's Trace Thurman.

Midsommar is released in New Zealand cinemas on August 8.