Run-of-the-mill work of horror

REVIEW / MYSTERY THRILLER

GRETA (NC16)

101 minutes/Opens today/2 stars

The story: In a subway carriage, Frances (Chloe Grace Moretz) finds a handbag. She returns it to the owner, a woman named Greta (Isabelle Huppert). Frances has just moved to New York and, despite the warnings of her savvier roommate Erica (Maika Monroe), feels a kinship with the solitary Greta. Then Frances discovers a side to Greta that the older woman would prefer to keep hidden.

This is a lot of A-list acting power to throw into a B-movie, one that throws away its sheen of mystery by the mid-point to become a run-of-the-mill work of horror.

There is nothing wrong with getting good actors to do pulpy work - there is a who's who of Hollywood elites in M. Night Shyamalan's films - and strong acting supported by a good screenplay can make for a breathtaking horror and mystery experience.

Celebrated French actress Huppert has made a career playing women who wear masks.

Perhaps it is that strong set of the jaw or the cool, appraising eyes, but she often plays seductive, morally ambiguous characters with cards held close to their chest.

As Greta, Huppert moves from being an absent-minded senior hungry for companionship to something more sinister.

 

But well before the end, Greta loses her mystery completely and that is when the movie runs into trouble.

Director and co-writer Neil Jordan pulls away the veil to reveal a cautionary tale about a waif who runs into trouble in the woods, but told without the visual flourishes that would give the premise any weight.

Irish film-maker Jordan, best known for his Oscar-nominated thriller The Crying Game (1992), knows his way around Gothic horror, having also made the gruesome update of the Red Riding Hood story in The Company Of Wolves (1984).

There is more than a hint of that fairy tale in this film. There is even a brave woodsman, on a mission to save Riding Hood, played by Irish actor Stephen Rea, star of The Crying Game.

There is not much to the film's second half, which plays out as a lightly plotted cat-and-mouse game relying on a couple of deus ex machina jump scares to get the job done.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2019, with the headline 'Run-of-the-mill work of horror'. Print Edition | Subscribe