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Art and anxiety! Horror Os-Good as it gets? – Beyond Bollywood

Writer-director Ozgood Perkins’ psychological horror is a fine blend of art and anxiety. Nicolas Cage is intimidating in his psychotic avatar, but it’s Maika Monroe who steals the show.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3 / 5)

By Mayur Lookhar

Is Hollywood obsessed with psychological crime thrillers, or are they simply a reflection of American society? Sitting seven seas away, raised on a diet of rom-coms and family dramas, this Indian reviewer may not be the best judge of such content. However, it’s undeniable that Hollywood’s psychological crime thrillers have garnered a cult following in the East.

In the pantheon of psychological  horror films, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), and Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs (1991) are considered genre-defining films. Javier Bardem’s portrayal of Anton Chigurh in the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men (2007) was a chilling depiction of a remorseless character who adhered strictly to his personal code of ethics. It’s the psychotic villain who leaves a lasting impact on viewers, evoking awe and shock. However, such films often run the risk of glorifying crime and criminals. If fear turns into a sadistic admiration, that’s when Kaliyuga rears its head once more.

In 1960, his father Anthony Perkins terrorized viewers as Hitchcock’s psycho Norman Bates. Osgood Perkins even played a 12-year-old Bates in Psycho II (1983). Unsurprisingly, the son, too, has taken a liking to the genre. Perkins emerged as a director with The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015). He revisits the psychological crime thriller genre with Longlegs (2024).

Maika Monroe in Longlegs (2024)

Set in the mid-90s, young FBI agent Lee Harker (Maika Monroe) and her boss Agent Carter (Blair Underwood) are stunned by the brutal deaths of a family, where all evidence points to the father having killed his wife and child, then killing himself. Harker discovers that similar incidents occurred twenty years ago, often coinciding with the child’s fourteenth birthday. The prime suspect in both cases is a mysterious figure who leaves behind coded messages ending with the name Longlegs. No one has seen this person, and with Harker dealing with her own anxieties, this only adds to the challenge.

Does Harker have what it takes to unravel this mystery? As a matter of fact, Oregon has a bunch of young FBI recruits. One of them gets killed during a door-to-door inspection, leaving Harker momentarily frozen. Is the mystery of Longlegs unsolvable? Is the FBI here looking for scapegoats while deputising Harker to this case? Dabanggs are only found in Bollywood, but Harker must show composure here. Questions about competency are justified, but Harker’s backstory makes her presence in this puzzle acceptable. She is perhaps the only one who can help capture Longlegs.

Maika Monroe in Longlegs [2024]

Monroe is no stranger to solving complex mystery.  She did that as Erica, friend of the missing Frances McCullen in Neil Jordan’s psychological crime thriller Greta [2018]. Here she is at the forefront. Monroe draws you to a Lee Harker, her anxieties evoke a genuine fear for this young, wiry FBI officer. Fear though keeps you on your toes. In this dark story, it’s essential for survival. Her reticent tone, long pauses, frozen body language, one simply can’t take your eyes off Monroe. The body language is weary, but Harker is blessed with a sharp mind. Maika Monroe’s performance in Longlegs is nuanced, capturing subtle emotions and complexities in her character with remarkable depth.

A good modern psychological thriller doesn’t rely on a killing spree to evoke fear. A writer and director must create an atmosphere of dread without excessive bloodshed, a balance Osgood Perkins achieves masterfully. In fact, Longlegs (Nicolas Cage) has only a handful of sequences throughout the film.

The opening scene, set in the winter of 1973, immediately captivates with a child’s curiosity about a car and a stranger’s silhouette. As she steps out, a figure dressed in drag delivers chilling dialogue in a brief, unsettling moment. In few scenes, Perkins employs a frame-within-a-frame technique, uncommon for this era, enhancing the film’s psychological impact. Unlike typical dark atmosphere in psychological thrillers, Perkins opts for a natural, pale tone that permeates every scene. The outdoor settings feel distinctly unsafe, heightening the atmosphere of fear. Lee Harker’s anxieties and the fear of lurking danger contribute to this pervasive sense of dread. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the air is filled with fear.

Longlegs’ art stems largely from Andres Arochi’s brilliant cinematography and Danny Vermette’s top-notch production design. Two scenes that particularly stand out are, first, when Harker is startled by a loud knock at her door in the middle of the night. As the officer gingerly walks to the door, don’t miss the designs on the side walls and the lighting. Perhaps the most underrated shot is when Harker and Carter are keeping vigil in the car at night. You can barely see their faces, but in the distant corner, out of nowhere, a dimming bulb from a streetlight pole sheds some light into the car, before extinguishing.

Nicolas Cage in Longlegs

Nicolas Cage has shown few grey shades before, but never has he played a friend of the devil. His blonde hair and white-painted face are reminiscent of the late Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight (2008). As mentioned earlier, Longlegs has only a few scenes, with his early appearances barely lasting a minute. Actor,producer Cage revels in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spook his fans and viewers. It would be unfair to compare Cage with many actors who’ve embraced chaos to play such psychotic characters. Beware, though, that from here on, any outsider who calls your child an angel will evoke the fear of Longlegs.

With no backstory, Longlegs strikes as someone who has just emerged from the dark. As often with such characters, there is substance abuse, though it’s more implied here. The madness comes from his belief in the occult. How his victims buy into the cycle of his hell is something viewers must decipher for themselves. While Cage is near flawless for the most part, his final wicked laugh feels somewhat forced.

That’s the story at the business end too. No, it’s not the revelation that is to blame. Longlegs builds toward a potentially terrifying climax. However, the penultimate and final sequences don’t quite match the earlier gripping experience. Despite this, there is no drop in intensity from Maika Monroe.

Psychological horror films are not as common as they once were and are among the most challenging genres to pull off. Longlegs [2024] is a fine blend of art, anxiety and horror. Longlegs has a touch of The Silence of the Lambs (1991) nostalgia, but comparisons with cult classics may be unfair. For what it is, Longlegs is as Os-Good as it gets.

The film is set to be released in theaters worldwide on July 12.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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