The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog ★★★★

A mean, moody, psychological horror Western, adapted from the novel of the same name.

I've not read the book, but I can imagine that there must be some scenic descriptions and real fleshing out of characters, given what's committed to screen. It feels distinctly Jane Campion, as well, despite being adapted. Although Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) remains consistently terrifying throughout -- who can blame Rose (Kirsten Dunst) for her liquor soaked coping mechanisms when Phil's always lurking around some corner prepared to freak her the fuck out -- he's also heartbreaking. And not in that annoying like oh the bully was just lonely and sad the whole time way, it's something deeper. More believable.

Campion has a way with shaping cruel characters into ones that aren't impossible to empathize with. Even as they're wondering how many logs they'll be able to remove before a rabbit will run for fear of being crushed. Or using carefully crafted paper flowers to light their cigarette. Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) worked really fucking hard on those, okay, Phil. Get some thera--oh wait it's 1925 on a cattle ranch in Montana.

No one's okay in this. George (Jesse Plemons) tries to be a gentler man than his brother, but he's also kind of an elitist asshole like his parents (Peter Carroll & Frances Conroy). Plus, he brings Rose to live on the ranch fully knowing how problematic Phil is and then just kind of is like "good luck, honey!" Dude. No. And Peter... well. He knows who he is. He ain't afraid of no Phils.

Oh and Jonny Greenwood's score is fucking delicious, totally deserves all the praise. Practically its own character. A Greek chorus member of musical narrative. And perfectly emotionally cued. Never felt pulled or manipulated. A complement to a set piece structured film, divided into roman numeral labeled parts.

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