This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Jay D 's Watching’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Okay, Southbound was a nice little surprise and this was....even better? I'm still mulling it over, but it feels genuinely layered and well-constructed, a horror film that's very much of the moment and a crowdpleaser that plays with some of the same themes (ironically?) that got THE HUNT in so much trouble.
A Few other notes, more or less at random.
1) Henry Czerny seems to be having so much fun. It's been a while since I've seen him in anything, and this juicy bad-guy role is a great reminder of how good he is.
2) Samara Weaving--does a great job as the protagonist-is it lazy if I compare her to Margot Robbie? It's probably lazy, but she's blonde, Australian, and very talented, so it feels like there's some basis. Anyhow, as much as I talked up Czerny in the previous bullet (and the whole cast is great, really-Adam Brody! Andie McDowell! Kristian Bruun!) this is really Samara Weaving's show--and she carries the whole arc, from a woman who believes she's genuinely having the best day of her life with her new husband, to a woman who's bloody, desperate, and willing to fight to survive. She has some moments that had me cringing in the theater, but more importantly, I found that as the film went on, I was really rooting for all of her.
3) In fact, what's interesting- (and what the directors and writers did such a good job of, I think) Is taking the premise --rich family is NOT like you or me, to marry into them, you take part in a game, determined randomly. One of the random choices is really REALLY bad, i.e. the most dangerous game. If they don't kill you before sunup if that happens, they believe the family curse (deal with the DEVIL) will destroy their fortune and family, so there's a whole element I wasn't expecting, i.e. they're not just doing it for sadistic fun, they're operating out of a misguided attempt to protect their (satanically-game-generated?) gains--and in that sense, although the film is operating on a slightly elevated level of reality, all the characters have conflicts and reactions that MAKE SENSE in that context. There's the family members who are true believers, the family members who are just going along with it because, the loyal hired help, the family members who are dealing with the trauma of being in a family that does terrible things, etc. And despite the just over 90 minute running time (you don't need THAT much time for your movie, folks) all those threads really get more than enough room to be explored and to feed into, and affect each other.
4) Really liked Tyler Bates' soundtrack.
5) If I had one criticism (I have two, actually-one was outside the filmmaker's control) it would be that I think the film gets away from the directors a little at the end--it had built up SO much goodwill with me by that point that it genuinely didn't matter, but it feels, in retrospect, as though they couldn't really decide how to end the movie so they just tried to squeeze in ALL the endings they had. And so after Weaving's Grace is subdued, we get not one but TWO different attempts, with different configurations of family members wielding the knife, to sacrifice her to the devil, interrupted by a betrayal and an aborted escape attempt, and followed up by a definitive (albeit hilariously delayed) answer to the question as to whether or not the satanic pact was real--it's excessive is my point, but it's excessive in a FUN way, and the only real problem I had was that I honestly, due to the editing, lost track of what was happening at a crucial moment the second time they were trying to sacrifice Grace. The Plot synopsis ain't up on Wikipedia yet, so seriously, if anyone can explain to me how we got from Alex about to stab Grace on the table to Grace rolling off the table, not stabbed, with the knife, I'd be grateful.
5b) Okay, the gripe I had that wasn't the filmmaker's fault? One of the most shocking/biggest 'surprise' moments of violence was spoiled in the trailer (the maid that gets the arrow to the face). There is so much in the film that it doesn't really take away from the movie, and the aftereffects of that moment in film are even more jawdropping, but it would have been a 'good LORD!' if I hadn't seen it coming, is all I'm saying.
6) That bit with Grace's hand and the nail was...................hard to take.
7) I really liked the bit with the car's computer assist software shutting the vehicle down on Grace when she comandeered it--was curious how they'd resolve that with her actually seeming to get away from the house, and that was both a neat little trick and another little jab about modern life and the way a society built for maximum creature comfort for the rich can't be trusted by anyone else.
8) There's definitely the economic parable here--it's not subtext so much as it's just TEXT, of the wealthy being willing to do horrible things to protect what's theirs, even when they know it...wasn't necessarily gathered through straight-up methods, and the way that the not-wealthy are seen as not quite as human by the same individuals, and that's all right there for anyone who doesn't want to just enjoy a fun thriller, but it also seems to me that there's an interesting subtext/parable about religion and morality to the proceedings, given the fact that Grace is named...well Grace, and Alex feels torn between her and the pull of his Satanic Family Ties, with all the rituals and justifications and dirty deeds that come with it as the price of 'being part of the family' and 'doing business'. In that sense, particularly Alex's relationship with his mother, and the choices he eventually makes in regards to her and Grace, it's.....possibly a more effective (for me) version of Dogville? Maybe I'm reaching a bit, but it's fun to reach sometimes, and after a thriller this energetic, you want to play around with ideas yourself, is what I'm saying.