Jake’s review published on Letterboxd:
Some random thoughts:
- Thom Yorke is my dad (Also the score is one of the best scores of the 21st Century but whatever)
- You know a movie is good when it’s 2 and a half hours long and you just want to watch it over and over again. It’s dug it’s way into my brain so much so that I can’t get it out. Yes Chloe Grace Moretz, I DO understand what you mean. (Fairly sure this is my sixth viewing)
- The Volk scene is the best piece of modern body horror put to the screen. The way it starts with her just uncontrollably crying and then being whipped around like a rag doll manages to make me queasy on a visceral level and an empathetic one. It just HURTS to watch it all happen because the violence feels so tangible and the consequences of said violence are so apparent.
- Tilda Swinton has permission to step on my face.
- This film might just have my favorite cinematography and editing combination of all time. The camera just feels so ALIVE in this, and the editing is razor sharp, it’s like a piano wire going straight through your eye and into your brain.
- The opening scene is brilliant and foreshadows so many different things both literally and thematically, and just feels like a great example of how to set the mood for your horror film.
- I love how the environment of the film just feels like it lives and breathes. You FEEL like the girls are being watched, dialogue scenes happen and we’ll cut to an empty hallway or room that make it feel like the studio is trying to listen to them actively. There is no moment where everyone feels safe, the atmosphere is just so strong, even in scenes where nothing nefarious is going on, it still feels like there’s something happening that you CANT see, and it’s brilliantly unnerving. The Markos Dance studio is up there with the Overlook Hotel as a horror location that lives and breathes as much as the monsters inside it. It’s so dreary, and the production design when it comes to the witches hidden compartments is just absolutely demented, weird, and disgusting.
- I feel a strange connection with Susie. She’s doing nothing but answering a call to her that she’s felt since she was a child. The inevitable pull, if you will. She’s driven by a pure sense of artistic passion, and I don’t know, I relate to that. The wave of relief that passes over her when they tell her she’ll be able to stay there without paying just feels so real, she really feels like she belongs... and BOY does she
- I’m borderline convinced Caroline is not the only trans character in this. I know the film is already playing with gender identity a lot, most obviously with Swinton’s dual performance, but there are a few other characters that don’t look distunctly female like some of the others. They may moreso just be androgynous, but either way, I really like how it blurs those lines. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s progressive, but I do think there’s something to be said that several characters who, as far as we know, identify as girls, do not look traditionally entirely feminine, and the movie just doesn’t say anything about it. They just exist as themselves, and that’s kinda awesome. Even Caroline isn’t explicitly mentioned to be trans. So right on Luca, right on.
- Speaking of that, this movie is GAY. Hella gay. I love it.
- Though, again, on that note, there’s an undercurrent of the dancers being ‘groomed’ (explicitly mentioned in the opening scene) by the witches and potentially abused by them, even the portrait of Markos in the hidden room has her next to Blanc, which I think implies they had that kind of relationship (tons of little hints of visual storytelling like that are in this and I love it) at one point. So along with the fascist witches being overthrown at the end, so too ends the cycle of abuse. A theme that finds itself into a lot of my favorite films.
- Those fucking DREAM SEQUENCES. They definitely owe a lot to the exorcist in how they use cutting and sound design (and silence) and just assault you with both frightening images that still manage to creep me the fuck out and cleverly foreshadow elements of the film to come. Love em.
- We stan Madame Blanc. Who I find to be a pretty interesting character. She’s sort of a wannabe revolutionary wanting to revamp the way the coven works fighting Markos for power. Which, combined with the aforementioned visual storytelling of her and Markos, I think implies that she at some point became fully aware she was being abused and resented Markos for it, hence their feud, and desires change because she doesn’t want it to keep happening.
- Dakota Johnson is so pretty like what the fuck
- Normally movies that don’t have a lot of color REALLY bother me, as I’m sure my mutuals are aware, but the gloomy atmosphere and sparse use of color really make the film feel exciting and unpredictable. When color IS used, Luca makes damn sure you remember it. The atmosphere and solid lighting and camerawork work for the the moments that aren’t cranked up to 11.
- There are so many stories within in this movie that it only hints about, but gives you enough to piece them together, and I live for that shit. The stuff with Blanc and Markos, the stuff with Susie’s mom and the Mennonites, and even the more subtle implications of Josef’s story make this so rewarding to revisit and find all these little details that make the film feel so much more grand.
- The entire ending sequence. It’s the end of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ but for horror films. I also do not mind the CG blood at all, the violence here isn’t meant to be tangible and real like before, it’s schlocky and over the top and I feel perfectly fits the whole ‘Schlock Horror/Shock Horror’ vibe.
- I still think it’s perfectly paced and moved along nicely. It contains so much ATMOSPHERE, which is essential to my horror movie enjoyment, and let’s me soak in it and absorb it for two and a half hours of wicked fright and I love it.
- Man all of this just works. I’m not even sure how after six viewings and an 11,000 word essay, but it does. If I ever see a horror film I like more than this I will truly be blessed by the Gods of cinéma. The movie could be entirely meaningless for all I care and I’d still watch it for the visceral experience of it all. It’s just so well put together... in my first review I called it the horror movie of my dreams, and I stand by it. An epic horror opus if there ever was one.
- I may have taken it down but I stand by everything I said in my essay. This movie plays like a song.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk