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THE PERFECTION (2018)
Directed by Richard Shepard
Written by Eric C. Charmelo, Richard Shepard, Nicole Snyder
Starring Allison Williams, Logan Browning, Alaina Huffman, Steven Weber, Molly Grace, Glynis Davies, Winnie Hung, Christina Jastrzembska, Graeme Duffy, Milah Thompson, Mark Kandborg
I don’t want to reveal too much about this film because it is filled with twists and surprises all the way through. Or at least that’s what this film wants people to believe. And even though the term “plot twist” may mean something a bit different to me as it does to these filmmakers, I still think this film goes one plot twist too far simply for the sake of being plot twisty. Mixing elements from BLACK SWAN, HOSTEL, MARTYRS, and the best of Cronenberg’s body horror, THE PERFECTION manages to be entertaining, chilling at times, and surprisingly gory as long as you don’t think too much about the way the story is constructed.
When her aunt dies, former cellist prodigy Charlotte (Allison Williams) is invited by her former instructor Anton (Steven Weber) to view his latest find Lizzie (Logan Browning). Charlotte and Lizzie immediately bond due to mutual adoration and understanding of what it is like to dedicate one’s entire life to the mastery of one’s craft. Having a few days of vacation coming up, Lizzie invites Charlotte to join her. Revealing anything else would be a detriment to what this film has to offer, but it is a film best left to be experienced rather than spoiled. Go in knowing as little as possible and this film will have the intended effect.
The nineties sort of killed the trust had between viewer and filmmaker. Movies like PULP FICTION subverted expectations of how a movie should play out (though it wasn’t the first, it was a trendsetter). Films like BLAIR WITCH PROJECT made us doubt the marketing and truth behind the films. And M. Night Shyamalan made a career of injecting a clever twist at the end of the story (a habit that ended up being a bit too trite to build a sustainable career on). It was during this decade more than any that people began looking at films with a shrewder eye, trying to catch the twist or the gimmick before it is revealed. The films that were considered successful at this twist thing were the ones that had the answer provided to them all along. You were just so caught up in the performances that you just missed them and ended up being blown away by the end.
Though THE PERFECTION has quite a few twists in it, they are plot twists in name only as it simply omits information and then rewinds and reveals the info later. A good mystery has all of the clues in the first act. The trick is being clever and entertaining enough to fool the audience into not seeing them. When that information is omitted, it’s not a mystery—it’s simply something not to be trusted. And THE PERFECTION is a movie not to be trusted. It cheats by omitting entire scenes only to reveal them later to make the scene playing out more poignant or to amplify the shockeroo that comes out of nowhere…because it literally comes out of nowhere. And even if it constructed these shockeroo scenes decently, that trick is used a few times too many by the time THE PERFECTION is done. At the end point, you’re so “shocked-out” that the give-a-fig well has run dry.
What is frustrating is that THE PERFECTION doesn’t need to rely on such cheap trickery. The cast is great. GET OUT’s Allison Williams is equally charming, likable, and dangerous at the appropriate times. Logan Browning is a fantastic newcomer who is able to incite sympathy and admiration all at once. Steven Webber is, as always, unnerving and poised. The way he exemplifies the pomposity and vapidity of the artistic elite is spot on. Everyone delivers a layered performance taking each character through transformations that leave them at the end completely changed from the characters we meet at the beginning. All good stuff.
More good stuff occurs in the effects department, mixing some fantastic CG work with some even more impressively splashy practical carnage. And the stuff suggested is even more harrowing. While this definitely falls into the category of body horror, it isn’t the type of terror you would expect—especially in a Netflix film.
THE PERFECTION is not a bad movie. It’s actually extremely well done and it’s a film I quite enjoyed. But I think the filmmakers think it’s a bit too clever than it really is and falls victim to pulling the same ruse too many times.