Director: Richard Shepard
Starring: Allison Williams, Logan Browning, Steven Weber. USA. 1h 30m
There is something surprisingly poetic about, Paul Haslinger’s unabating film, a movie which is pretty easy to fall into and follow despite it constantly throwing the audience a curved ball by rewinding time and showing things from a different perspective, it’s charming but for me there just wasn’t enough obscure strangeness, instead that was reserved until the bitter…. sweet end.
Opening with a somber tone, a woman lays wide eyed on her deathbed, her daughter looking on with a 1000 yard stare, there is a slight sign that something is not quite right , through a montage we see her getting pulled from a prestigious school to return home and look after her mother, scenes of self harming and a girl desperate to escape , but also something much darker from her past. She’s damaged but is hopeful of a better future. She calls her old mentor for help, her mother has gone and now she wants to return to Anton (Webber) the person who was painstakingly training her to be the best cellist in the world but the world has moved on and he has a new best, the stunning Lizzie (Browning) her face plastered all over the streets of Shanghai, China, she’s utter perfection but the hint of jealousy falls into lust when the two virtuoses spend a night on the town then ends up in the bedroom, something pretty strange for rivals but these girls are also striving for the best and see it in each other but this flashy romance won’t last.
The following morning is the beginning of something wonderfully gory. The girls set out for a two week holiday together, as young lovers, taking the offbeat roads through the beautiful rural landscape of Shanghai, China. Lizzie isn’t feeling well but after taking some painkillers and getting incredibly thirsty all hell explodes from her butt and guts as she redecorates that bus, this extended scenes is full of every bodily fluid and some embarssing scat moments, not quite on par with Salo but it’s scattaclioius and full of creepy crawlies for that added bonus.
After a bit of extreme body modification, the film takes a moment to pause, and rewind. Now this technique can be really intriguing or really annoying but Shepard doesn’t tell every step because there’s so much more to come, he manages to use this time to story tell and piece by piece we’re fed snipped of information to see the deviousness going on, is challenging but really effective.
The Perfection begins to break down as the story twists and turns, the viewer is never really fully aware of the truth but it’s fun to be pulled along this merry rollercoaster. Firstly the two leads are gorgeous, and the secret world they live in is lush and intriguing. It’s hard not to gush over the every evolving plot but expect to have your eyes open on a cruel secret cult and be slapped about the face with some feminist values.
Shepard has taken so much on board by adapting a filming technique to each act but one thing that is constant is the use of perfect circles, in clothing, backgrounds, jewellery, there’s an ever presence of this shape, that takes on the role of a symbol, the reasoning behind all of this violence and secrets.
Just when you think you have it all sorted the movie changes pace and direction yet again for a dramatic finale, there is an impressive POV first person fight scenes with cleavers and knives, and for me the cream topping is the outro scene which is very much a wet fantasy of Asami from The Audition (1999) which when looked back on from the humble opening scene it does make you wonder how we got to this bat shit crazy body horror ending. it’s slick, slightly mysterious and utterly delightful.
A lot of people have said that it doesn’t live up to its namesake, but most movies don’t, but I feel it does, providing you’re using the official graphics where therE is turned around, because this is vital for the concept that perfection like beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in this case the beholder is an incredibly twisted individual, and the effect seems to flow over to everyone involved and indeed into this movie.
R – The Woods (2006), St Agatha (2018).
L – Femisit Films, Body Horror, 10 WTF endings Volume 1