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'Greta' (2019) Review

Chris is a Houston Film Critics Society Member and a contributor at Bounding Into Comics, God Hates Geeks, and Slickster Magazine.

The official one-sheet theatrical poster for, "Greta."

The official one-sheet theatrical poster for, "Greta."

Elegantly Shuddersome

From co-writer and director Neil Jordan (Byzantium, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles) and co-writer Ray Wright (Case 39, the 2010 remake of The Crazies), Greta takes an obsessive look at loneliness and injects a disturbing and refreshing jolt of horror to an already uncomfortable situation.

Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace Moretz) is still feeling the loss of her mother a year after her passing. Frances lives with her roommate Erica (Maika Monroe) in an effort to maintain her residence in New York City as she survives on a waitress salary. Frances finds a forgotten purse on the subway ride home one day and delivers it to its owner the following day without hesitation. She develops a bond with purse owner Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert); a widow who is attempting to fill the void left by her daughter who no longer lives with her. Frances and Greta become incredibly close until Greta’s sweet motherly behavior evolves into terrifying infatuation.

Isabelle Huppert as Greta Hideg.

Isabelle Huppert as Greta Hideg.

This film essentially belongs to Isabelle Huppert as she commands every second of screen time that is given to her. Her love for classical music, her nimble feet and ability to dance in a way that benefits the head games she plays with her potential victims, and the horrific scheme that she’s concocted to reel in unsuspecting women culminates in a way that leads to the Greta character being one of the most exhilarating horror/psychological thriller on-screen adversaries of recent memory. Huppert is not only eccentric and memorable in her role, but she manages to make a sequence where she’s having a conversation with her own pinky a riveting occurrence.

Chloe Grace Moretz made a lasting impression in the 2018 Suspiria remake despite her short amount of screen time. Moretz has become accustomed to the horror genre that makes her a reliable source of portraying terror and sheer hopelessness to a masterfully accurate degree. In Greta, Moretz has a void to fill in her life as Frances. On the surface Frances seems to be keeping it together and has moved on after her mother’s death, but she’s still devastated emotionally. That devastation seems to be initially mended when she bonds with Greta, but her life is practically decimated and left in a state that is more deteriorated than when the film began. You can see the fear and desperation for survival in Moretz’s eyes, the way her breath shakes when she panics, and hear it in her voice when she screams for help from anyone that can hear her.

Maika Monroe’s portrayal of Erica is spot-on, but the character is written in a way that is bothersome. Erica is constantly questioning the decisions Francis makes. She seems to want what’s best for Frances, but comes off as vain and self-centered rather than the caring individual she was probably intended to be. Erica is constantly there to tell Francis she told her so with a smug look on her face that just makes you want to slap her.

Greta is a cat and mouse thriller between Greta and Frances. Whenever it seems like Frances has gotten away or a sliver of hope seems to reveal itself, Greta is there to squash those hopes and reveal that she’s still in control of the game. In a slight spoiler for the film, the ending leaves things open for a sequel. From a business standpoint, it makes sense; filmmakers want their films to be successful enough to warrant sequels which will make more money and hopefully establish a money making franchise. As a horror fan though, you may desire a conclusion that is more final. The film already has a low body count, but you never feel that tragic sense of loss. In the end, Greta is too hopeful and you end up craving something more depressing and futile.

Maika Monroe as Erica Penn.

Maika Monroe as Erica Penn.

Greta introduces a new definition of evil that takes obsession to unprecedented levels. The cast is wonderful and Isabelle Huppert is deliciously sinister as a manipulative stalker. The film even has an outrageous restaurant scene that is as memorable as that bonkers restaurant sequence Tom Hardy had in Venom. It’s just a shame Greta resorts to signing off as sequel bait rather than offering a stand-alone cerebral tale of dread. Nevertheless, Greta is worth seeking out for horror fans in search of something classically frightening in the genre.

© 2019 Chris Sawin

Comments

Chris Sawin (author) from Houston, TX on March 08, 2019:

It's not really scary. It's more unsettling than anything. Unless you think or know that you scare easily at the theater then it's probably pretty safe to see otherwise.

Claudia Mitchell on March 08, 2019:

I can't get up my nerve to see this one. I might wait till it's on video so I can be scared in my own house!