Description from Netflix:
In this high-gloss update of a 1980 slasher flick, Elijah Wood stars as Frank, a mannequin store owner who develops an unsatiable lust for blood when he becomes obsessed with a young artist who turns to him for help with her latest exhibit.
Notable actors: Elijah Wood, America Olivio
You can read my review of the original version here.
One minor point to nitpick in that description. Frank did not suddenly develop “an unsatiable lust for blood” when Anna comes into the picture. We saw him kill at least one woman before he meets Anna. If anything, Anna makes Frank try to fight his psychopathic tendencies.
Aside from two small scenes (as well as a few flashbacks), the entire film is told through Frank’s POV. When I first heard about it, it seemed a little gimmicky. An easy way to generate some press. The cynic in me immediately saw a cash grab. “Look! You see everything through the eyes of the killer! Give us your money!”
Thankfully, that was not the case. The use of POV was amazing, and Wood did a great job at playing the Frank character in such a way as to convey his overwhelming psychosis without having to see him. We were treated to scenes that showed what was going on in his head that drove him to kill. We hear his heavy breathing when he’s stalking his prey. We are not the killer, but we see everything from his perspective. I don’t know that we necessarily sympathize with him, but we can definitely see why he does what he does.
To me, one of the most telling scenes comes after a kill, when Frank catches a glimpse of himself in a mirror. He has just finished murdering and scalping a girl he took on a date. He sees himself in the mirror, and begins to vomit. In build-up to that scene, we see why he kills (a deep-seated psychosis brought on by his mother). But in that scene, we see that his actions sicken him. He does not want to kill, but he is driven to kill. He hates himself for it, and he can’t stand the sight of himself after committing such a vile act. He knows he’s a monster, but he can’t help it. It’s a terrific scene, and it wouldn’t have been nearly as impactful if the film wasn’t told through the eyes of Frank.
Elijah Wood is the obvious stand-out here. After all, it’s not easy to command a movie when you’re rarely seen, but he does a tremendous job here. You can hear the crazy in his voice. When you catch a glimpse in the mirror, you can see the crazy in his eyes. And yet, behind the crazy is a tenderness. A sense of longing. A need to belong in a world that he no longer can find his place in. It’s an amazing performance.
But he’s not the only one who turns in a great performance. Nora Arnezeder (Anna) is perfect. She’s able to see through Frank’s craziness and appreciate the person he wishes he were all the time. Through her interactions with Frank, we see how hard he tries to fight his compulsion to kill. She’s an extremely important character, and Arnezeder kills the role.
Really, I could talk this way about every actor in the film. Everyone was fantastic. There wasn’t a weak link in the cast.
The film looked great. Where the original was a dirty, grimy film, this one felt very sleek, and the pulsing, electronic soundtrack only added to that feeling. It reminded me of Drive. But with more scalping. (Although with less elevator head-stomping, which I felt was odd.)
If I have any problems with this movie, it’s that there were a few scenes that were a bit hard to follow. But I think that’s less a problem with the narrative structure and more because we’re seeing the events of the film through the eyes of a psychopath. As a general rule, a madman is not the most reliable storyteller.
Overall, I really loved this film. There weren’t really any jump scares, but more of an overwhelming, suffocating dread that didn’t let up for the entire film. It was an expertly crafted film with some tremendous performances. As of right now, this is in my top-three horror films of the year (along with Mama and Evil Dead).
One final note: there’s a terrific scene after a kill where Frank catches a reflection of himself in a car door, holding a scalp. It’s a terrific homage to the poster for the original. I really loved seeing it in there. It showed the love and respect this director had for the original, while still being able to remake it in his own style.