‘Longlegs’ Review: A Disturbing Descent Into Hell

longlegs

Writer and director Osgood Perkins knows how to curate a distinctly rancid vibe, one that is both cursed and compelling. From The Blackcoat’s Daughter to Gretel & Hansel, his films exist in an uncanny version of our reality, bleached of color and hope. And nothing embodies that more than his latest film Longlegs. Here, Perkins creates a film akin to a modern Silence Of The Lambs, that isn’t afraid to dip into the supernatural. Featuring stunning and haunting performances from Maika Monroe, Nicolas Cage, Alicia Witt, and Blair Underwood, Longlegs horrifically embodies the idea of gazing into a deep dark abyss, full of nothing but despair.

Monroe stars as Agent Lee Harker, a new recruit at the FBI with a knack for sniffing out criminals thanks to some uncanny psychic abilities. Quickly, Perkins reveals that Longlegs isn’t afraid to go paranormal and get weird. Sure, the FBI has a test for telekinesis and of course, it’s embraced by Harker’s boss Agent Carter (Blair Underwood). Perkins immediately lets the viewer know he isn’t trying to tell a simple serial killer story. This is going to be something much stranger and almost unknowable.

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Harker joins Carter in the hunt for Longlegs, a serial killer whose patterns are seemingly unpredictable. The only similarity is all of his victims are families with a young daughter. Longlegs also leaves a cipher at each scene, one that the FBI has yet to crack. But as soon as Harker joins the investigation, her reality seems to unravel as she gets closer to discovering the truth. 

While Longlegs follows some of the expected true crime procedural beats, Perkins constantly destabilizes the viewer with disturbing imagery and unexpected reveals that keep this film feeling so uniquely disturbing. Cage’s Longlegs has a face that looks warped from plastic surgery, which feels hauntingly appropriate for a doll maker with sinister intentions. Cage’s performance is almost gleefully unhinged, which feels out of place in a world where no one laughs or even cracks a smile. He feels like a clown dancing around his captive audience, speaking in riddles as he sets his terrible stage.

Monroe delivers a career-defining performance as the awkward Harker. Her embodiment of Harker’s arc makes Longlegs feel more real, grounding a cosmically bizarre film in her own struggles to interact with the rest of the world. Underwood is a loving foil, a warm yet distant force of kindness when Harker has no real interpersonal connections except a strange relationship with her eccentric mother (Alicia Witt). The small core cast is giving it their absolute all, joining Perkins in casting this strange spell to take your breath away.

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Then, of course, there is Perkins’ signature style that’s very geometric and structured, everything perfectly placed (including a comically large portrait of Bill Clinton behind Agent Carter’s desk). Every photo and object is put on screen to curate a very specific vibe that’ll imprint into your frontal lobe. Cinematographer Andres Arochi pairs perfectly with Perkins, beautifully utilizing light and shadow to bring every scare to life.

But Perkins and Arochi also play with form as flashbacks are filmed in 4:3 as if captured on 16mm, adopting analog horror aesthetics to shape the film’s horrors. Every flashback and crime scene photo feels too real, like objects that shouldn’t be allowed on screen. As an analog horror freak myself, seeing Perkins experimenting with the form in such a buzzy release is particularly exciting as filmmakers are seeing the power of such an aesthetic. 

Believe the hype, folks, because Longlegs is the real deal. This is a culmination of all the monsters lurking in the dark corners of Perkins’ brain, and I desperately hope there’s more where this came from. An assured vision and adoption of analog horror aesthetics make this film feel suspended in time and space, a cursed object that contains a dark secret. This is a movie that made me hesitate walking into a dark hotel room, waiting for Cage to materialize from the shadows. Longlegs is one of the scariest and best films of the year, hands down.

5.0

Summary

Longlegs is one of the scariest and best films of the year, hands down.

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