Practice makes perfect. There are musicians who practice the most difficult musical compositions for their entire careers, all with the hope of achieving the perfect manipulation of notes. The amount of perseverance, motivation, and ambition needed to accomplish this feat of perfection is a mindset that many cannot, and will never, accomplish.
Director Richard Shepard crafts a genre-bending tale of perfectionism, jealousy, and deep trauma with The Perfection. Assisted by a wonderful performance from Allison Williams, this bizarre, engaging, yet also unfortunately flawed horror/thriller/science fiction mash-up is consistently operating at maximum capacity, even when there are moments when it should make room for something other than gratuitous spectacle.
Charlotte (Allison Williams) is a former musical prodigy who had to leave a house for musicians, run by an eccentric and wealthy husband and wife (Steven Weber and Alaina Huffman) when her mother became ill. Charlotte, now older and no longer a revered musician, seeks out the new prodigy, Lizzie (Logan Browning), who is now the star pupil of Charlotte’s old school. The two women are drawn to each, and eventually take a journey together that leads to sinister outcomes.
The mystery presented in The Perfection is a major piece of the fun; the design of the narrative utilizes more than a few fun devices that keep the viewer guessing about what is going on and where the film is leading, specifically the editing style and the manipulative nature of the character development. There is a Brian De Palma-esque quality to the structure of the film, with manipulation of time and detailed story perspectives, however, this film doesn’t have the auteur’s sense of subtlety within the frame.
The film isn’t too interested in balancing the different elements of tension and suspense. Instead, this movie completely swings for the cinematic fence every time it steps to the plate. And, on a few occasions, the approach towards instituting a twist in the story feels so forcefully implied that it ultimately takes away from the dark and twisted fantasy horror story being told. Still, it’s refreshing to see the chances that this film is willing to take, especially in its push towards being its own unique and unexpected vision.
One of the strongest links within The Perfection is the fascinating performance from Allison Williams, who is building a strong horror credential with this film and Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Ms. Williams has a way of being devious and delicate at the same time, of being a manipulator and the manipulated; her smile has a quality that is both naïve and sinister. Watching Ms. Williams build her character amidst the twists and turns is amusing throughout the entirety of the film.
Elements pile one after another, building upon each other, all leading towards a finale that seems impossible to conclude after all the genre manipulations being operated at every corner of the film. This makes it difficult to conclude this movie, especially when the spectacle of everything is being pushed towards extraneous limits, and unfortunately the addition of a specific story device doesn’t help The Perfection find its place in the end.
The Perfection is a nicely composed, sometimes bizarre, and sometimes fascinating genre mash-up. With a great performance from Allison Williams, it’s a pleasant surprise to see a film play with genre in such interesting ways, even when it doesn’t always work out like it should. Still, for those willing to take the strange journey being offered here, The Perfection is looking to stimulate all your horror senses.
Movie Score: 3.5/5