Peacock (DVD)

Peacock DVD Review (click for larger image)Reviewed by Debi Moore

Starring Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Susan Sarandon, Josh Lucas, Keith Carradine

Directed by Michael Lander

Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment

While the theme of multiple personalities can often come off as melodramatic or campy thanks to its overuse in soap operas and its current over-the-top portrayal in Diablo Cody’s “United States of Tara” on Showtime, it is still one of the best mediums to utilize when undertaking a psychological thriller. Or, in the words of Peacock director and co-writer Michael Lander, an “internalized psychological horror film”. Plus, it offers the actor playing a character with such an affliction the opportunity to shine. Think of Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve and Sally Field in Sybil. Oscar- and Emmy-winning performances, respectively. Toni Collette, the aforementioned Tara, won last year’s Emmy as well. Do similar rewards await Cillian Murphy for his turn in the split personality sweepstakes? If there’s any justice in this world, absolutely.

But before delving into the pleasures to be derived from Peacock‘s smartly assembled thespians, let’s take a quick look at its storyline. Most of the time John Skillpa (Murphy) is a meek, socially inept bank employee who keeps to himself and appears to have his life totally in order. Except for during the early morning hours, when he releases “Emma”, his alter ego, who basically runs his life by taking care of the household and leaving him notes with instructions of what to do while she’s “asleep”. It works out fine for John … until one fateful morning when a train derails into his backyard while Emma is bringing the laundry in from the clothesline. Her presence is a surprise to John’s neighbors and his employer, who all assume she’s his wife. As Emma interacts with those around her, she begins to extend the hours of her possession of John’s mind and body, and from there things begin spiraling out of control as a battle begins for dominance between the two sides of John’s psyche. Other factors play into the conflict as both the mayor’s wife (Sarandon) and a call girl with a past connection to John (Page) befriend Emma and unknowingly help increase her power over him.

Peacock DVD Review (click for larger image)Unlike a lot of cinematic peeks into the world of dissociative identity disorder, the script by Lander and Ryan O Roy doesn’t spend a lot of time examining the “why” of John Skillpa’s life but rather focuses on the ramifications of the “how”. John was only able to maintain his routine because of a tight regimen of discipline and restraint. Once the lid is blown off, however, there’s no putting Emma back in the box. We’re told just enough about his mother to know everything we need to about how he got in this situation, but that’s not why we’re here in podunk Peacock, Nebraska. No, we’re here to see Murphy blow the doors off as he/she combo John and Emma. Back and forth the viewer goes — alternately sympathetic to and suspicious of each — and for vastly different reasons. Is Emma evil like Mama Skillpa, or is she actually the “true” John? Murphy inhabits the widely different characters completely, and it’s a testament to his (and Lander’s) craft that not once does he make Emma exaggerated or far-fetched.

Plus, he’s surrounded by a supporting cast that 100% brings it’s “A” game. Bill Pullman as his unfeeling boss, Carradine and Sarandon as the small-town politician and his wife who see John as their ticket to some good old-fashioned self-promotion (although Sarandon’s Mrs. Crill does have slightly more altruistic intentions than her husband), and Page as the mystery woman who may or may not hold the key to the John/Emma standoff are all believable and textbook examples of acting ease and prowess. Ditto Josh Lucas as Officer Tom McGonigle, sort of John’s friend but not nearly close enough to suspect what complexities lurk behind his simple exterior. He’s a character I really would have liked to have seen more of; but, much like last year’s Moon, wherein Sam Rockwell had a tour de force as two sides of astronaut Sam Bell, Peacock belongs to one man alone: Cillian Murphy as John and Emma Skillpa with a big assist from Michael Lander.

Peacock DVD Review (click for larger image)With only a single other IMDB credit to his name (a short from 2000 entitled “Solid Waste”), Lander has materialized on the scene out of nowhere to give us a welcome alternative to the influx of remakes, sequels, prequels, and 3D extravaganzas that Hollywood seems to be incapable to saying no to — a real thinking, feeling person’s look at the thin line between mental health and mental illness but with enough of an edge to it that feelings of uncertainty and suspense permeate every frame. I can’t wait to see what he might have up his sleeve next.

Overall my sole complaint about Peacock is the ending. After watching the film the first time through, I was only mildly satisfied at the outcome. It felt a little too on-the-nose and almost Lifetime-esque. There are times when wrapping things up is called for, but in this instance the bow added on top was way too big. I much prefer the alternate ending included on the DVD; it’s tighter and more ambiguous, allowing viewers the option of filling in a few blanks for themselves. Unfortunately, there’s no commentary included in which we might have heard from Lander as to why the other conclusion was chosen. Nonetheless, there are some additional choice extras like a just over 20-minute long behind-the-scenes featurette entitled “Welcome to Peacock”, four deleted scenes totaling four minutes, and three minutes of rehearsal footage of Murphy. Throw in the script on DVD-ROM and a few Lionsgate trailers, and we’re done. It’s an average amount of special features for an above average film that deserves better.

Peacock may not have enough genre elements to appeal to the stereotypical horror fan who prefers gorier, more action-based fare, but its reach will extend to those who appreciate originality, attention to detail, and the headsier side of insanity — all held together by an award-worthy leading man … or is that woman?

Special Features

  • Alternate ending
  • “Welcome to Peacock” making-of featurette
  • Deleted scenes
  • Cillian Murphy rehearsal scenes
  • Trailers
  • Script on DVD-ROM
  • Film

    4 out of 5

    Special Features

    2 1/2 out of 5

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    Debi Moore

    I'll see you on the other side...

    • Emy

      I will now be putting it in the Netflix queue (or as soon as I log onto to Netflix and remember to put it on there…).

    • Vanvance1

      I saw it.

      Why is this flick even referenced on a horror site? This is a painfully boring, drawn out pretentious drama.

      It drags on like a vulture circling a kill implying that when said moment (the end) is reached the audience will be rewarded for their Christ-like patience and forgiveness. Alas, the end leaves you staring at your tv and saying: “What? That’s it? How long was that? I want that time back!”

      The worst part is you have to believe that no one who interacts with Cillian Murphy’s character can tell this is A GUY IN SHITTY DRAG. Not the cop, not the woman he boned, not his boss or the boss’ wife. No one. No one but everyone watching this groaner. And no, Murphy mumbling and stumbling across the screen with his head down is not a great performance. It’s silly, obvious and never works.

      Half a knife. Tops.

      • Floydian Trip

        Not too surprising to see a reaction like that but to me it was as Hitchcockian as a movie can get without actually being a Hitchcock movie.

        And that score…..I want it.

      • Pestilence

        Have to say I totally agree with you man. I got a hold of it thinking it would be a nice, taught thriller.

        Halfway through I was wavering over the fast-forward button. Twenty minutes after that, I had to break out the booze to stop myself turning it off in utter disbelief that not one – NOT ONE – of these people that LIVE with this guy can tell that’s him in a shitty wig talking in a soft high-pitched voice.

        I just ceased caring. Ceased caring quite utterly about anything the film had to offer. Hitchcockian vibe? DEFINATELY. Hitchcockian content and quality? FUCK NO.

        • Vanvance1

          Glad I’m not alone in this.

          By the way, if the ladies in the audience think that I didn’t like it because it was an effeminate drama note that the woman I watched it with found it equally laughable.

    • Floydian Trip

      Only 4 stabbies? No, no, no. 5 at least.

      • The Woman In Black

        I had to penalize them a bit for that sappy ending. The alternate was vastly superior. Plus, not one bit of suspicion as to Emma’s true identity? You’d think at least one person in town would question it. Lucas’ character for example.

        But otherwise, yeah, it’s a GREAT film, nearly perfect.

        • Floydian Trip

          The alternate ending was more of how I thought the movie was going to end I agree but I like the ending they went with as well. The slumping of the shoulders was great I thought.

          As far as noone questioning who she was or not noticing that she looked alot like John well it all required much less suspension of disbelief than I thought it would because the performance was so amazing. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this movie was even more effective than Psycho. That’s right.

          And that eyebrow shaving scene made my testicles shrink into my body.

          • The Woman In Black

            Agreed about the shaving for sure — I flashed back to The Wall and its similar scene. *shudder* As for Psycho, well, Murphy did rival Perkins in his performance, but overall the films are so different, I wouldn’t go there myself.

            Mostly I’m just glad someone besides me has seen it and liked it. Hopefully some positive word of mouth will give it the wider audience it deserves.

            • Floydian Trip

              The Wall was the first thing I thought of as well. I can handle someone being gutted better than shaving their eyebrows off for some reason.

              You’re right Psycho and Peacock while similarly themed are very different and I’m not trying to take anything away from Hitchcock but this movie really blew me away. Like I mentioned before I was only interested in this for Page. I thought it sounded ridiculous though.

              I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I loved how the fact that John had multiple personalities was not the reveal but rather what he/she was going to do next, when he was going to completely snap and how far he/she was going to go.

              That score was to die for as well. Incredible.

              I think an emphasis should be placed on the fact that this is an independant film and far better than anythng Hollywood has produced since I can remember.

              Let me guess, Creepy liked The Descent Part 2 better.

            • Uncle Creepy

              No, actually I felt the same exact way about Peacock as WIB so fuck you, smart ass!! Peacock is a much better film. And for the record she liked Descent 2 as well, so there! LOL 🙂

            • Floydian Trip

              Heh, I’m dying to comment on that review. I’ve been chatting with Axelle about the movie and it seems not even Neil thinks as highly of it as you do. I’d give an arm, or at least a pint of blood, to be on the DFF where that one is discussed.

            • Uncle Creepy

              See the flick. Draw your own opinion. And we’ll see.

    • Floydian Trip

      I’m seeing this tomorrow fo’ sho’.