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Non-Review Review: Greta

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

Greta is a pure and pulpy delight.

In some ways, Greta could be seen as a follow-up to director Neil Jordan’s previous film, the under-appreciated Byzantium. Like Byzantium, Greta is also a tale of monstrous motherhood and of a young woman struggling with a prolonged and extended childhood. Indeed, both Byzantium and Greta are very much genre pieces. This is in keeping with Neil Jordan’s sensibilities as a filmmaker. It is dismissive of these stories to suggest that Jordan “elevates” them, but he has a very strong understanding of the mechanics of how stories like these work. He always has, going back to stories like The Company of Wolves or Interview with a Vampire. (Even other “genre” work, such as crime films like Mona Lisa or The Crying Game.)

Both Greta and Byzantium are monster stories, even if Greta is anchored by a much more modern sort of monster than Byzantium.  Whereas Byzantium explored this mother-daughter push-and-pull through the lens of the classic vampire story, Greta draws inspiration from a different sources. There are obvious classic gothic influences at work in this psychological horror – Edgar Allan Poe looms large over one of the film’s big reveals, to pick one example. However, Jordan is most obviously and most consciously evoking the popular trashy psychological horror genre of the late eighties and nineties, the dozens of the films that were legitimised by the success of Silence of the Lambs; films like The Cell or Kiss the Girls or The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

Indeed, the easiest and most efficient way to describe Greta might be “Postnatal Attraction” meets “Single Hungarian Female.”

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Non-Review Review: If I Stay…

If I Stay… has a pretty great leading performance from actress Chloë Grace Moretz and a fantastic supporting turn from veteran character actor Stacy Keach. Both actors do the best they can with the material on hand, although it is clearly an uphill struggle. There’s a sense that the two actors are wandering lost through the film. Moretz’s character is not so much trapped in a hospital as in a terrible screenplay.

If I Stay… squanders these performances with an incredibly cynical and calculated narrative that plays less like the reflective highlights of teenager’s life, and more like a collection of young adult clichés combined together and served up through a blatantly manipulative framing device.

Leaving the audience cold...

Leaving the audience cold…

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Non-Review Review: Carrie (2013)

Carrie is, for the first half of its runtime, a fairly effective attempt to update Stephen King’s iconic high school horror story about religious repression and teenage issues. While Chloë Grace Moretz isn’t quite as memorable and quite as nuanced as Sissy Spacek was in Brian De Palma’s much-loved original adaptation, she gives a strong central performance. However, the film falls apart a bit as it enters the second half, turning into a large-scale action set piece that feels more like a superhero disaster movie than a psychological teen horror.

There will be blood...

There will be blood…

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