A young woman goes on a solo vacation to the English countryside following the death of her ex-husband.
THE GOOD STUFF
JESSIE BUCKLEY- I got to admit, I’m not too familiar with Buckley’s work outside of her Oscar-nominated work in the good daughter, which was released last year, and her performance in taboo, a very underrated FX miniseries starring Tom Hardy.
When it comes to horror movies, characters that are given as much to do as Buckley’s character is in this film often conclude in stark contrast. By the end, you’re either a Jamie Lee Curtis type of scared scream queen or some sort of an Ellen Ripley “get away from her you b****” type of a kick-ass alpha type. What Buckley does here takes up all of the gray areas between those two points. She is vulnerable but never seems helpless. She is tough but never overwhelmingly superheroic. I feel that Buckley will become a way bigger star very soon, and with excellent reason. Buckley is a mesmerizing performer and an actress of great power.
CINEMATOGRAPHY- Simply put, this is one of the more wonderfully bucolic horror movies you will ever see. Outside of the extreme and occasionally grotesque horror elements of the story, every single solitary shot of this film is a feast for the eyes, especially true of the exterior shots. When things start getting all horror-y, though, things get a lot more Kubrick-level claustrophobic and outright ugly.
THE BAD STUFF
THE USAGE OF RORY KINNEAR- I know it’s an Alex Garland film, and I know it will get weird. (More on that in a second) Yet I have no idea why he decided to have poor Rory Kinnear play so many different characters in this film. I know there’s a symbolic meaning behind one actor playing an entire township’s worth of people, but it’s lost on me. Though I find Kinnear suitable for what it’s worth here, there are only so many notes that he has to play. This story would have benefited a lot more from having different actors bring their diverse perspectives to the townsfolk. It’s a misfire. And a major one at that.
THE UGLY STUFF
WEIRDNESS GONE WRONG- Alex Garland’s type of weirdness is always a roll of the dice. The man has three major credits on his resume, and he’s rolled sevens more often than not. There was the weird dance sequence AND the weird scenes of robots seducing human men in EX MACHINA. There was the weird house creature thing AND the weird mirroring of alien movements in ANNIHILATION. Both of these things were sevens.
(THAT WHOLE PARAGRAPH WAS A METAPHOR FOR THE CASINO GAME CRAPS BTW)
All of the weird decisions in this film are perhaps too jarring, or perhaps too out of place for something that Garland could powerfully execute with mere simplistic choices. But, again, this could be me very much missing the symbolism of it all, but the last 10 minutes of this film are some of the most graphically bloody and gory things to hit a movie theater in many, many moons. And I couldn’t help but feel it might be an example of Alex Garland showing you that he can do this horror thing just about as well as anybody in the game. And he can. But there comes the point where stylistic filmmaking can become directorial masturbation, and the last 10 minutes of this film is that.
Garland is a director who belongs on that list of new-age directors that we should adore. Names like Wan, Aster, Eggers, and Peele seem to be getting more and more name brand recognition as the years pass, and rightfully so. Garland is just as good as them. But every director has a misfire. Sometimes it comes later down the road, and sometimes it happens very early. This one is definitely a blemish on his resume.
MEN is playing in theatres now