Longlegs has an eerily hypnotic quality that guarantees it will stay in the mind of viewers long after credits roll. From the opening minutes of Longlegs alone, it's clear that Oz Perkins has a distinct visual language for the film, giving it an otherworldly, nightmarish feel. This descent into madness continues to evolve over the 1 hour and 41 minute runtime, playing with the audiences’ expectations to create an unsettling and unforgettable experience.

Longlegs follows Lee Harker (Maika Monroe), a young FBI agent who joins a serial killer case that has stumped the agency for years. After a breakthrough in decoding clues left by the killer, Lee Harker thinks that she can stop “Longlegs” before he kills again, but at what price?

Perkins is exceptional at making his worlds feel real and lived in, as we’ve seen in his films like Gretel & Hansel, and he wisely plays with the fact that we’re very familiar with 90s killer thrillers like The Silence of the Lambs or Seven. Setting this film in the Clinton-era, it’s easy for the audience to fill in some of the blanks, but it's clear that this is a bizarro version of the world we know. Whether the color palette, set decorations, or how Perkins chooses to introduce new characters and locations, something always feels "off," which lends to the more nightmarish feel of the movie. The dreamlike quality of Longlegs is enhanced by the camera placement and editing, which makes you feel like you are a character in the world, alongside Lee Harker, but you're helpless to change the events that unfold in front of you. The aspect ratio switches throughout the film are an especially nice touch that instantly unsettles the viewer and transports us to the world of "Longlegs." 

Maika Monroe is captivating as Lee Harker, and she excels at playing the character in a way that hints at her past trauma and her being different than everyone else, while allowing for layers to be peeled back as the story unfolds. This is a film that is filled with wonderful character moments and performances, with not a weak link in the cast that also includes Alicia Witt, Blair Underwood, and Kiernan Shipka. Blair Underwood does a splendid job in the "mentor agent" role, bringing the gravitas needed to ground this film in reality. It was also great to see Kiernan Shipka working again with Perkins, and she has a scene-stealing role that really shows off her range. I’m purposely not going to say a lot about Nicolas Cage's role, but in a career filled with memorable performances and characters, Cage continues to surprise and impress.

I posted some impressions after seeing Longlegs a couple weeks back and I received a number of questions asking whether the movie is “scary,” and I struggled with that answer a bit due to audience expectations for horror movies these days. Is this “scary” in the sense that it has frequent jump scares or something chasing after you like Pennywise in IT? Definitely not, but this film is operating at a different level, designed to unsettle the audience and scare you long after the movie ends, but that doesn't mean that you won't be creeped out while watching it too.

With some of the comparisons I’ve made above, you can guess that the story has some familiar beats and some folks may feel that the third act is too predictable. I’ll have to be vague here for this pre-release review, but I’d argue this is intentional to allow the film to subvert expectations in other ways. What I will say is that this Longlegs is so clever and layered that it made me want to instantly re-watch and I’m really excited to discuss this movie with others when it's released to theaters.

It’s hard enough to tell a compelling story about the hunt for a serial killer, but it’s another thing to immerse the audience in the world of the film and unnerve them in the way that Longlegs has accomplished. From directorial choices, to the story, and the cast, everything comes together to create a truly special film. Longlegs also cements Maika Monroe as one of the most interesting actors working in the genre today, with her continuing to take on unique and complex characters. Oz Perkins’ unique, confident storytelling voice and visual style sets him apart from the crowd of horror filmmakers, and he has crafted an unsettling masterpiece in Longlegs.

Movie Score: 5/5