Director: Richard Shepard
Starring: Allison Williams, Logan Browning, Steven Weber, Alaina Huffman
A highlight of my week…watching Netflix movies.
Every now and then, however, Netflix serves up a beauty and makes the pleasure of sitting on my lovely sofa in my warm house sipping fine English tea whilst watching a new release all the better. The Perfection, a psychological horror thriller, was dropped with the usual minimal-fanfare but picked up some internet hype due to its content and bizarreness – so was Richard Shepard’s flick worthy of the buzz?
A mix of horror, mystery and thriller elements, The Perfection is a polished looking flick with Get Out’s Allison Williams starring alongside Logan Browning – there’s revenge in there, maybe some redemption, jealousy, envy, violence and plenty of WTF moments too but this isn’t a #MeToo pandering affair, this is just two women bossing the screen. One day, can we please just accept this as the norm? Williams stars as Charlotte, a former child prodigy cellist who gave it all up to tend for her sick mother 24/7, and Browning as Lizzie, the new ‘next big thing’ in the cello world. The two eventually come face-to-face and, after a sweaty one night stand, things start to get weird as Charlotte seemingly lets her jealousy get the better of her in some awful ways. However, things aren’t quite as they seem. The Perfection isn’t just torture porn or standard revenge fare and, to be honest, there are about three or four separate movies running parallel to each other that just adds to the macabre events that Shepard gives us. Ordinarily, this would be a recipe for disaster but here, it just about works. It’s not entirely successful but it holds together enough to stay on target, even it’s more bonkers moments later on.
Allison Williams is excellent as the unhinged Charlotte, given more to do here than in Get Out, and plays the character with a charming menace – you know something isn’t quite right yet can’t quite put your finger on it. Logan Browning, too, is very good in a fairly challenging role which could easily have been slightly hokey or OTT but she handles it well and the pair are marvellous together. They’re joined by a scenery-chewing Steven Weber and Alaina Huffman, the husband and wife behind the prestigious Bachoff Academy that both Charlotte and Lizzie studied at. A small cast, but that’s all the movie needs.
There’s a real curveball feel to The Perfection, a bit grindhouse, a bit indie-arthouse and the two styles merge pleasantly together to create a pulpy thriller that manages to twist and turn whenever it can. Revelations are made via flashback, character turns, more character turns until you start to question just who the ‘villain’ is and just what is going to happen. The finale is big, brash and bloody and carries a real wave of pleasant comeuppance /pain-fulfillment – however, it’s going to alienate some viewers for its near-absurdity. That’s if the chopping, changing tones that precede the finale haven’t thrown you out of the movie – each bringing a new level of bizarreness or creditability stretching – but if you hang in, you should be rewarded. I will say, though, that I enjoyed the movie more when it was a mystery, when you didn’t really know what was going on and it seemed the story was going one way before it got yanked another way (the mystery elements mainly occurred in the first half) but Paul Haslinger’s frantic score will keep you on the edge of your seat and DoP Vanja Černjul at least gives you a movie that’s interesting to look at.
As much as I do love Netflix (and I actually do, for all of its flaws) sometimes I wish they would simultaneously release certain movies into cinemas. I would have loved to have seen The Perfection on the big screen but maybe it works best as a small cult offering on Netflix – I’m not sure it would have earned its social media reputation with a (probably underperforming) wide release. With compelling and strong performances from Allison Williams and Logan Browning, The Perfection stands as a very good modern thriller that’s bloody, OTT, weird, twisty and, whilst also fairly flawed, it’s well worth your time.
June 10th 2019