Someplace between camp and Cronenberg (each father and son) lies Perpetrator, a freakish horror movie from Jennifer Reeder that’s undoubtedly an acquired style — notably in case your style contains sadistic masked murderers, cosmetic surgery victims, high-school cheerleaders turned robbers, and a birthday cake stuffed with cups of contemporary hemoglobin.
This, plus heaps extra gore and madness, could be present in writer-director Reeder’s fourth characteristic, which follows a teenage lady whose personal grisly transformation occurs as a killer stalks her fellow college students at a unusual prep college straight out of Heathers. With a cameoing Alicia Silverstone enjoying a suburban auntie from hell, the Berlinale premiere ought to discover a number of cult followers at different festivals, in addition to on-line through Shudder.
The Backside Line
Transgressive and true to itself.
Reeder constructed her repute on the fest circuit with a slew of quick movies combining horror film tropes with a type of transgressive surrealism harking back to each Cronenberg and David Lynch. Certainly, her newest film feels equal elements Scanners and Blue Velvet, with bits of experimental formalism, together with spooky kaleidoscope-like pictures, and moments of excessive kitsch.
The opening credit, harking back to Se7en and Noticed, instantly put us into squeamish serial killer territory. After, we’re launched to Jonny Baptiste (Kiah McKirnan), a highschool senior whose father is having horrible migraines that stretch his face into odd kinds, prompting him to ship Jonny to dwell along with her Aunt Hildie (Silverstone), who’s both a witch or sorceress or only a very unusual fixture of an already unusual American suburbia.
Like her dad, Jonny begins having dangerous complications and shape-shifting visions that permit her to morph into different folks. She additionally has buckets of blood flowing from varied orifices, a few of it associated to menstruation and a few of it inexplicable. She’s actually swimming in a lake of it at one level, and Reeder by no means loses a second to douse her protagonist in a number of gunk.
In school, different ladies her age have been mysteriously disappearing. Even weirder is a principal (Christopher Lowell) who acts like he must be dedicated, a steering counselor with a severely botched nostril job, and a jock (Sasha Kuznetsov) who appears as sinister as Euphoria’s Nate. Any of those folks may very well be suspects within the kidnappings, and whereas Perpetrator isn’t precisely a nail-biting thriller, it does preserve us guessing for a time.
However plot finally appears much less important to Reeder than moments of gross-out gore and plain previous surrealness, which cinematographer Sevdije Kastrati captures in shades of blue and purple that intensify the weird and extreme aspect of what’s taking place. Certainly, the movie works greatest when it eschews story to provide a few of these macabre visible epiphanies — or else when it doubles down on the crude comedy, particularly within the prep college scenes, the best way that John Waters would do.
Jonny’s gradual transformation into one thing irregular appears like a transparent metaphor for the rising pains she experiences as a younger lady, they usually accompany her romance with a good friend, Elektra (Ireon Roach), and her quest to search out the reality about her mom, who left the household way back. Such plot factors are removed from delicate or unique, however once more Reeder is much less interested by stunning us than indulging in horror clichés that make us each chortle and freak out.
Just like the French filmmaker Yann Gonzalez (Knife + Coronary heart), for whom slasher motion pictures function inspiration for tales about queerness and transgression, Reeder is a part of a brand new breed of administrators who grew up with style flicks within the 80s and makes use of their codes to say one thing private about id, doing it in ways in which intentionally border on camp. Perpetrator could also be foolish and over-the-top, however within it lies a beating coronary heart — fairly actually, you will note — that yearns to specific itself.