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Nicolas Cage’s Serial-Killer Thriller Is Nightmare Fuel

By newadmin / Published on Thursday, 11 Jul 2024 14:36 PM / No Comments / 14 views

According to the movies, there are really only four jobs: assassin; hooker (heart of gold optional); President of the United States of America; and FBI agent who hunts down serial killers and risks safety and sanity in doing so. Everything else can be filled under miscellaneous: doctor, lawyer, cop who has to make a choice, etc.

Longlegs knows that you, the dedicated moviegoer, have seen that last profession portrayed onscreen any number of times since Clarice Starling made a deal with her erudite devil. It endeavors to mix things up just enough to keep things from being completely cookie-cutter. You still get a young Fed, Lee Harker (Maika Monroe), who’s pathologically dedicated to her job; the way she intuits the exact generic suburban house where a suspect lives early in the film gives you the impression that this isn’t a gig so much as a calling. Her superior, Agent Carter (Blair Underwood), is a recognizable graduate of the School of Hard-Ass But Paternal Bosses. Harker is hunting a killer, who happens to be one very grotesque psychopath with a love of pancake makeup, glam rock and going “Cu-ckoo! Cu-ckooooo!” when talking to future victims. The fact that he’s played by Nicolas Cage in full neo-Kabuki, scraping-at-the-door mode does, of course, make a hell of a difference.

But what really distinguishes this entry into a subgenre that peaked back when Clinton was the commander-in-chief — a caveat that the movie understands by placing his executive portrait in Carter’s office and this carbon-dating the story’s timeframe — is the manner in which every cliché is filtered through several extra levels of creepiness. The coded messages of Zodiac? Decipher them via a biblical reference (hint: it’s not from the Book of Genesis) and you’ll find they’re playground taunts. The connect-the-dots legwork that allows a warped order to emerge from the chaos? It has to do with childrens’ birthdays. The murders themselves? They all involve a father who’s inexplicably inspired into savagely slay his family and take his own life after. Do you like the clammy, sickening aesthetic of Se7en and TV’s Hannibal? This movie ups the cadaver-chic palette of browns and grays while also messing with the aspect ratios to suggest vintage 1970s home movies.

Director Osgood Perkins has been slowly building up an impressive resumé as a filmmaker who favors dread over bloody excesses, slow-burn eeriness over 110-volt shocks to the system (The Blackcoat’s Daughter, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House; even his 2020 fairytalesploitation opus Gretel & Hansel has its moments). Longlegs has its share of jolting scares, and this is definitely a movie that loves a good zero-to-11 burst of volume before an abrupt cutaway. But Perkins’ cryptic death-trip mystery is less concerned with grossing you out — the odd maggot-covered corpse notwithstanding — and more about simply getting under your skin. Even if the filmmaker didn’t have a legitimate pedigree in terms of baroque tales about banal evil, he’s still intent on mining terror out of late 20th century Americana that seems to have curdled from the inside out. It’s an unabashedly style-over-substance take on a particular type of modern horror story. This is less a serial-killer thriller than a feature-length nightmare vibe.


That leeway allows Perkins to stray from the true-crime-with-benefits template that often characterizes post-Silence of the Lambs works like David Fincher’s Mindhunter series and shuffle into slightly more supernatural territory. Without giving too much away, you can expect the name Satan to be uttered more than once. Also, if you have a phobia regarding nuns or lifelike dolls that you’re afraid may be watching you, you might want to steer clear. And if you’re allergic to protagonists who are socially awkward to the point of possible on-the-spectrum diagnosis, veteran actors given a license to ham (and go HAM) or T. Rex on movie soundtracks, you can expect hives.

We will say that Monroe, having already secured a spot in the horror-movie canon thanks to It Follows, proves she can go all-out Clarice with the best of them. And there’s really no one better than Cage when it comes to giving a WTF performance that suggests not just a broken moral compass but full-on, swing-for-the-rafters madness. You may or may not appreciate how Perkins is leaving his territorial mark on this warhorse narrative, but the man knows exactly what he’s doing. Longlegs isn’t breaking new ground. It is, however, intent on tilling that cursed earth in the name of its own rotten harvest.

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