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09th Jul 2024

The first horror movie masterpiece of 2024 is here

Stephen Porzio

It’s a must-watch for fans of serial killer thrillers like Fallen, The Silence of the Lambs, Se7en and Zodiac.

We’re over halfway through the year but 2024 has already given UK cinema goers some 5/5 movies.

I’d comfortably label the unforgettably haunting Holocaust drama The Zone of Interest, the devastatingly emotional All of Us Strangers and the wonderfully life-affirming Perfect Days all as masterpieces.

That being said, we haven’t this year had one of those horrors or thrillers that lands in cinemas an already bonafide classic yet. That is, until now.

The new 5/5 chiller is titled Longlegs and hails from writer-director Osgood Perkins, son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins and renowned filmmaker in his own right.

In the past, JOE has championed Perkins’ debut movie – the brilliantly atmospheric and unsettling The Blackcoat’s Daughter. But with his new fourth film, the director has lived-up to his early promise and then some.

Modern horror icon Maika Monroe (The Guest, It Follows, Watcher) stars in Longlegs as Lee Harker, an up-and-coming FBI agent in the ’90s with a knack for vaguely psychic hunches.

When these unique abilities enable her to identity and apprehend a wanted criminal in a truly unnerving early-on sequence, Harker finds herself recruited by a superior (played by Blair Underwood) for a much more complicated investigation.

Over three decades, a number of families unknown to each other have been killed. While the forensics seem to imply that the members of these families inflicted this violence upon each other, a cryptic note signed with the name ‘Longlegs’ was found at the scene of each crime.

As such, it’s up to Harker to help bring the sinisterly elusive Longlegs killer (played by an unrecognisable Nicolas Cage) to justice.

Story-wise, Longlegs shares DNA with a handful of other legendary movies about the hunt for a serial killer. The most clear cut comparison is The Silence of the Lambs with Lee Harker being very much a Clarice Starling type and Cage’s Longlegs figure comparable to that of Buffalo Bill.

On top of this though, Longlegs’ coded calling cards recall the Zodiac Killer’s taunting letters. Plus, in the same way the Zodiac movie made Donovan tune ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ sound like the most evil song ever, Perkins’ film does similar to T-Rex’s ‘Bang a Gong (Get It On)’.

Longlegs, however, puts a supernatural twist on these types of tales. Again this is something not entirely original from a story perspective – the Hollywood movies Fallen and Suspect Zero tried to do something comparable to varying degrees of success.

What makes Perkins’ film stand head and shoulders above these similar supernatural murder mysteries though is the writer-director’s complete command of atmosphere.

He and his cinematographer Andrés Arochi constantly frame Monroe’s protagonist Harker in striking, eerie environments that first appear out of focus or obscured to the viewer. This is before they are slowly unveiled through the use disorienting camera moves or off-kilter cutting to both the audience and the hero.

Combined with the menacing ambient soundtrack by Zilgi, the effect is that even the most typical scenes in Longlegs – like Harker meeting with her boss to discuss the case or her visiting her hyper-religious mother (Alicia Witt) – are utterly drenched with dread, because of the feeling that something horrible could happen at any possible moment.

And with the spectre of Cage’s seldom seen but mysteriously seemingly all-powerful villain – wisely hidden from the marketing materials for the movie – it probably could.

While the Oscar-winner’s screen time in Longlegs is on the shorter side, he leaves a huge impression – with his trademark spontaneous explosiveness perfectly deployed to play an unhinged serial killer apparently unable to have a normal interaction in anyone in his life.

That being said though, Monroe is the true standout acting wise – managing to make her babe in the woods with a powerful inner strength type character extremely compelling and sympathetic, while also conveying to viewers her own hidden mysteries and darkness.

Longlegs – with its hypnotic gloomy pacing, its investigatory scenes filled with creepy codes and densely enigmatic conversations and its plot, which as it goes on becomes more dreamlike and nightmarish – somehow manages to conjure a true sense of evil, a feeling which lingers long after its closing moments.

While the structure of Longlegs is more akin to a thriller, the raw power of Perkins’ filmmaking craft elevates it to a full-on horror – one of the scariest Hollywood has put out in years in fact.

Longlegs is out in cinemas on Friday, 12 July.

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