Movie Review: ‘Greta’ is Kind of Dumb But Also Very Fun, Just Like All Good Trashy Thrillers!

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CREDIT: Jonathan Hession/Focus Features

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Isabelle Huppert, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea

Director: Neil Jordan

Running Time: 98 Minutes

Rating: R for Psychological and Physical Torture From a Spry Sixtysomething Woman

Release Date: March 1, 2019

Is it better to know going in to a nonsensical movie that it doesn’t make sense, or to put it all together afterwards? Or perhaps thinking in terms of a binary between “sense” and “nonsense” is not really the best way to approach a juicy horror flick about obsession. That is certainly the case with Greta, in which director Neil Jordan sets Isabelle Huppert loose on Chloë Grace Moretz, turning a budding intergenerational friendship into a deranged domestic fantasy. There are moments when I wonder how a character can get away with so much bad behavior, or when I am taken back at how big a role coincidence plays in all the machinations. But there are so many twisted pleasures along the way that I cannot be too mad.

CREDIT: Shane Mahood/Focus Features

Frances McCullen (Moretz) has recently moved to New York City, and she is somehow still trusting enough to return a handbag she finds on the subway to the home of the person who lost it. That person is Greta (Huppert), a French piano teacher who lives alone and who it turns out has been leaving behind a whole series of bags to lure unsuspecting kind young women into her clutches. But before we peel back all the layers on Greta, we get to spend some quality time with Frances and her roommate Erica (Maika Monroe). Erica is the much more cautious yin to Frances’ yang, immediately pegging Greta for the creep that she is. But that does not mean she isn’t also an advocate for alternative gut health treatments, which means that we get a surprising amount of dialogue about the wonders of colonics. Seriously, I would have been happy if this movie were just an hour and a half of Monroe discussing the joy of fluids getting shot up her butthole.

As for why Greta enjoys torturing Frances and others like her, her motivations remain vague, to the film’s advantages although perhaps to some viewers’ frustrations. Through reveals about Greta’s strained relationship with her daughter, Jordan hints at some clear explanation that never really comes. But if you calibrate your expectations to accepting that that explanation is unnecessary, then you should be good to go. There are also some implications that Frances is drawn to Greta because she sees her as a replacement for her own recently deceased mother. But all this mother business is just a framework to build the shenanigans around. Don’t worry about all that – just sit back and enjoy Huppert dancing psychotically and ignore any concerns about “logic” and “motivation.”

Greta is Recommended If You Like: Audition, Misery, The Visit

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Colonics

Movie Review: ‘The Prodigy’ Plays Around a Bit with the Evil Child Formula, But Proceeds Mostly Predictably

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CREDIT: Rafy/Orion Pictures

Starring: Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott, Peter Mooney, Colm Feore, Brittany Allen, Paul Fauteux

Director: Nicolas McCarthy

Running Time: 101 Minutes

Rating: R for Disturbing Juvenile Behavior, A Fair Amount of Gore, and Momentary Graphic Nudity

Release Date: February 8, 2019

It’s better to be unfailingly nice and decent than it is to be preternaturally smart. It’s great if you can be both, and the two certainly are not mutually exclusive. But the worst-case scenario is when you have no control over your skills and personality. So it is in the case of Miles, a young boy whose advanced intellect is paired with some sociopathic tendencies. He had the misfortune of being born on the same day that a serial killer met his end one state over. This murderer’s soul is now trying to take over Miles’ body to complete his lethal work. That is not a spoiler – while the trailers play coy about the true nature of Miles’ disturbing inclinations, the beginning of The Prodigy is edited in such a way to make it unmistakable what we are dealing with.

As is the case with so many bad seed movies, this one is about the efforts of the mother to figure out what is going on and to keep the evil at bay. But The Prodigy differs from the likes of Rosemary’s Baby in terms of how much everyone else believes what is really going on. As mom Sarah, Taylor Schilling is as open-minded as she ought to be given the situation. She takes her boy to a therapist (Colm Feore), who turns out to be a specialist in reincarnation. For a movie that mostly plays by the rules of the real world, it is a little jarring to see it be so matter-of-fact about its supernatural forces. But if you are going to confirm that souls of the dead can indeed inhabit the bodies of the living in this reality, why beat around the bush? Feore is certainly up to the task to convey professionalism, confidence, and normality, or at least normality in a certain context.

While The Prodigy is admirably out-there in its supernatural status quo, it does not have the idiosnycratic climax to match it. It’s bracingly brutal, but fairly predictable. There could be a happy or a depressing ending, and the option taken goes down about exactly as you would expect it to. There is enough in there to satisfy the bloodlust of a particularly sanguine audience, but it will be a little less than filling to any horror gourmand on the hunt for new flavors.

The Prodigy is Recommended If You Like: The Omen, The Good Son, Generally any and all evil kid movies

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Hungarian Dialects