Longlegs : Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on July 11, 2024 in / No Comments

 

Rated R by the MPA for bloody violence, disturbing images and some language. Running time: 101 minutes. Released by Neon.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Neon, LonglegsThere’s nothing in the world like a movie full of single-minded intent and purpose. It’s the way that writers and directors push us down a one-lane path toward an unwieldy, dangerous truth that reveals a film’s entire existence. And no film genre in the world encapsulates this portentous feeling – emoted in the film by its participants and shared with us in the theater seats as we watch events unfold – than the horror genre.

Not having seen writer/director Osgood Perkins’ The Blackcoat’s Daughter or I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, I had no idea what kind of film Longlegs would be. However, the opening prologue and the scene immediately following the opening credits seated me in the welcoming comfort of discomfort. The terrifying Longlegs comes out swinging and clearly announcing Perkins’ visual style, exposing us to his storytelling methods and drawing us in with Maika Monroe’s perfectly muted performance as FBI agent Lee Harker.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Neon, LonglegsMonroe hooks us with a solemn characterization of a woman with, shall we say, enhanced qualities. Withdrawn and quiet, Harker’s barely noticeable in a room full of agents being given their door-to-door assignments, and she’s barely there in the car with her partner as they arrive at their designated canvassing area. But her senses alight as she points to a door with bewildering certainty, declaring that the person they’re looking for is within. While this kind of psychic ability doesn’t come into play like it does in the prologue, the rest of the film tests her senses, toying with her as the main mystery’s machinations come into view.

This isn’t the bright-eyed Monroe from It Follows or Bokeh; here, she becomes something much more dark, with a strange wisdom, electricity, and strength running just barely under her blank façade. Perkins relies on Monroe in almost every scene of the film, and she rewards this trust by giving one of the year’s most beguiling and haunting performances. Harker’s every movement, every glance, every word – they’re all carefully calculated, dedicated to the sole purpose of defining this enigmatic FBI agent, preparing us for her battle against the ultimate embodiment of evil.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Neon, LonglegsWhich, of course, comes in the guise of the titular Longlegs, a role fiendishly executed by Nicolas Cage under heavy prosthetics. Nigh unrecognizable here, Cage’s appearances are kept to a minimum (I don’t even think he’s visible but for maybe five or seven minutes in total), but his presence as Longlegs hangs over the entirety of the film. When he’s onscreen… ye gods. Cage matches Monroe in intensity, becoming the unhinged ying to her more reserved yang. Cage loses himself in the role and the prosthetics, emerging as a ghastly figure who defies any sort of normalcy. When we see Longlegs onscreen, it’s Longlegs, not Nicolas Cage, who has his hand right on the nape of our necks and is threatening to break them with as much crazed glee as he can muster.

Several Red Dragon-esque family murders have occurred in this film’s ‘90s timeframe, with a history of the same modus operandi going back some 20 years. Over this span of years, no one has gotten close to Longlegs or can prove he’s responsible, except for indecipherable Zodiac Killer-style notes left taunting investigators. But with Harker’s superior Agent Carter (Blair Underwood) putting her and her talents on the case in an act of desperation, it’s not long before Longlegs is taunting Harker where she lives, further involving her – and us – in his abominable work.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Neon, LonglegsThe film’s muddy and cold aesthetic only makes Harker’s case and Longlegs’ murders more shocking, with Andrés Arochi’s frames playing deceptive and menacing games with shadows and light. Not an ounce of warmth is felt, not even in Harker’s mother’s house; scenes meant to convey protection or some semblance of safety are tarnished by horror and Longlegs’ touch. They isolate Harker agonizing close-ups or half-empty frames; the further Harker goes, the more she’s separated from objects or people, exaggerating the inference that she’s not fully in charge of how she gets from point A to point B. Rather, there’s guidance coming from somewhere, someone, or something unknown.

Obvious parallels will be drawn to Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs and Jodie Foster’s immortal performance therein, but there’s more at work here than the corporeal. In that film, Dr. Hannibal Lecter was evil in human form, bound only by his imagination and his physical self. With Longlegs, there’s a larger evil afoot (explained later in the film), unbound by the flesh and with no limit to its reach. It’s like the montage of previously-seen locations in John Carpenter’s Halloween, where we revisit places so beloved that are no longer the refuge we knew. While Longlegs’ mission and results are horrifying, it’s the meanings and memories tainted and soiled forever which become more of a violation.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Neon, LonglegsTrust me when I say that Longlegs stays with you for a long time. Osgood Perkins lays down a suffocating blanket of trauma and fear, even with the valiant Harker trying to shine a light in the darkness. However, she’s tied to the darkness itself, which makes for a terror-filled fight. Maika Monroe plants herself firmly in Harker’s being, with Nicolas Cage balancing her with every twitch and guttural utterance he delivers. These actors deliver two of the year’s strongest performances; we’re watching masters at work, perfectly matched to their characters and to each other. Perkins has several levels of art going on with Longlegs, an utterly outstanding and eerie film that pushes past being a horror movie and into the magnificent.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on 4k or Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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