Tag Archives: Oz Perkins

Dirty, Sweet and You’re My Girl


by Hope Madden

Very few 2024 films have been more eagerly anticipated by horror fans than Oz Perkins’s Longlegs. For some, it’s the filmmaker’s criminally underappreciated features The Blackcoat’s Daughter, Gretel & Hansel, and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House that compel interest in his latest effort.

For others, it’s lead Maika Monroe, a tremendous talent who routinely chooses challenging, satisfying horror, including It Follows, Watcher, The Guest and more. But for most people, let’s be honest, it’s the chance to see Nic Cage play a deeply deranged serial killer. (We are not made of stone!)

Cage excels, as does Monroe—both aided immeasurably by memorable support work from Blair Underwood and Alicia Witt. Monroe is Agent Lee Harker whose “hyper intuitive” nature has her assigned to a confounding case of whole families murdering one another, the only sign of an outside presence being an encoded note left at the scenes.

Monroe’s green FBI agent is as stiff and awkwardly internal as Cage’s psycho is theatrical. Her terror is as authentic as his lunacy.

Perkins shines as bright as ever, too. As always, his shot selection and framing evoke dark poetry. His use of light and shadow, architecture and space is like no one else’s.

His Longlegs direction and writing contain provocative notes of his own Blackcoat’s Daughter, but the plotting here is anchored by something slightly more predictable. I defy you to watch Blackcoat’s Daughter and figure out where it’s going, and yet it ends up exactly where it needs to be. For all the many fascinating flourishes and unsettling performances in Longlegs, there is something here that feels more obvious than any of the filmmaker’s previous films. Maybe it’s the clear influence of 90s thrillers: The Silence of the Lambs, Zodiac, maybe even a little bit of Se7en.

It is nagging—the sense, for the first time in any of his films, of recognizability. But don’t let that deter you. In many ways, it’s Perkins’s sleight of hand, his way of suggesting one thing while saying something else, of rooting audiences in something familiar expressly to pull that comfy rug away.

Longlegs is strangely beautiful, deeply unnerving, and a fine reason to be a horror fan.

Sister’s Grimm

Gretel & Hansel

by Hope Madden

It’s still early, but 2020 has not been great in terms of horror.

First came Nicolas Pesce’s pointless reboot of The Grudge.

Yikes. And I do not mean that in a good way.

And then last week we had Floria Sigismondi’s boldly wrong-headed reimagining, The Turning.

In keeping with a trend, this week Oz Perkins revisits an existing story. Gretel & Hansel pick on the bones of that old fairly-tale—the one that actually did scare the shit out of me as a kid. Two kids are turned out into the woods because their parents can’t feed them. Things go from bad to worse once they’re left to fend for themselves and soon cannibalism comes into play, as I assume it always does when you get lost in the woods.

Perkins, working from a script by Rob Hayes (East Meets Barry West), abandons much of the original bits (fewer breadcrumbs). His spookier imagination is more interested in Gretel’s burgeoning womanhood.

Sophia Lillis (IT) narrates and stars as Gretel, the center of this coming of age story—reasonable, given the change of billing suggested by the film’s title. The witch may still have a tasty meal on her mind, but this is less a cautionary tale than it is a metaphor for agency over obligation.

Alice Krige and her cheekbones strike the perfect mixture of menace and mentorship, while Sammy Leakey’s little Hansel manages to be both adorable and tiresome, as is required for the story to work.

Perkins continues to impress with his talent for visual storytelling and Galo Olivares’s cinematography heightens the film’s folkloric atmosphere.

It’s unfortunate, though, that Perkins doesn’t also write. The two films he both writes and directs, I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House and, in particular, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, sidestepped predictability while mining primal anxieties to produce excellent, memorable horror.

The writing here doesn’t quite reach the heights of the storyline told through imagery. Gretel & Hansel loses itself too often in a dreamscape horror without rectifying or clarifying, which leaves the metaphor foggy and the horror muted.

But there’s no escaping this spell. The whole affair feels like an intriguing dream.

Identity Crisis

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

by Hope Madden

Winter break approaches at a Catholic New England boarding school. Snow piles up outside, the buildings empty, yet Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton) remain. One has tricked her parents for an extra day with her townie boyfriend. One remains under more mysterious circumstances.

Things in writer/director Oz Perkins’s The Blackcoat’s Daughter quietly unravel from there – although quiet is not precisely the word for it. There is a stillness to the chilly, empty halls. But thanks to the filmmaker’s brother Elvis, whose disquieting score fills these empty spaces with buzzing, whispering white noise, a sinister atmosphere is born.

Like Perkins’s Netflix-produced follow up I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House, Blackcoat’s Daughter breathes atmosphere and tension. Perkins repays your patience and your attention. You can expect few jump scares, but this is not exactly a slow-burn of a film, either.

It behaves almost in the way a picture book does. In a good picture book, the words tell only half the story. The illustrations don’t simply mirror the text, they tell their own story as well. If there is one particular and specific talent Blackcoat’s Daughter exposes in its director, it is his ability with a visual storyline.

Perkins is also a master at generating tension, a kind built on unsure footing. The filmmaker routinely touches on your expectations, quietly toying with them. He introduces characters and situations rife with horror possibilities, but equally plausible as images of safety: priests in a boarding school, cars on an icy road, James Remar in a motel room.

Remar’s mug can be associated with so many villainous characters that his presence in this film as a concerned father figure is perfect. There is one masterpiece of a scene between Remar and Emma Roberts – one that dances with to so many different rhythms of danger – and it perfectly encapsulates this filmmaker’s power over an audience.

When the slow and deliberate dread turns to outright carnage – when Perkins punctuates his forbidding atmosphere with hard action – he loses his footing just a bit. But Blackcoat’s Daughter is a thoughtful little horror show, its final act a fascinating rethinking of old horror tropes.

Pay attention when you watch this one. There are loads of sinister little clues to find.