GRETA

Nothing elevates a silly B-movie quite like the stars. Just look at stuff like The Evil Dead and Tremors. Both absurd, over the top films, made even more fun with excellent lead performances from Bruce Campbell and Kevin Bacon. Those are mere outliers, though, as a majority of B-movies are exactly what they are: B-movies. If a poorly written screenplay or stale direction doesn’t keep your attention, then you better hope the actors are able to keep it for you.

Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a young waitress living in New York, currently grieving the recent death of her mother. She finds a purse on the subway and being the good Samaritan she is, returns it to the owner, a sweet lady named Greta (Isabelle Huppert). Greta is a widow and has a daughter studying out of the country, so she’s a very lonely woman. This causes her and Frances to strike up a quick friendship, but Frances slowly learns of Greta’s sinister nature and ulterior motives. Frances quickly breaks off the relationship, but this doesn’t dissuade Greta, who begins to stalk and terrorize Frances at every turn. 

This film is basically Isabelle Huppert vs. Chloë Grace Moretz and it’s loads of fun to watch, and that’s all because these two actresses are totally committed to the performances. I’ve been enjoying watching Moretz’s career as she’s grown up and after a spat of mediocre to awful projects, she took a little break and is back to doing smaller projects that utilize her naturalistic talent. Moretz really sold the constant paranoia and fear one would feel from somebody that just wants to do nothing but stalk and terrorize you. Director Neil Jordan and the great cinematographer Seamus McGarvey perfectly evoke the feeling of slasher films of old, with a lot of careful framing and lighting to heighten the suspense. There are times where Greta is standing in the corner, or off in the distance, and you don’t even realize it. It often reminded me of John Carpenter’s Halloween in that respect. Mark Emerson’s editing was great as well, utilizing rapid paced quick cuts when necessary, such as when Frances suddenly encounters Greta and it zooms and cuts all over the place, like she’s having a panic attack. 

One thing that defines a stalker is how crazy they are and Greta here is absolutely batshit insane, all made possible by Huppert’s scene stealing performance. I mean, she’s one of the most accomplished actresses of her time, so it’s no surprise she’s excellent, but she really makes the role something special. Greta is a damaged woman surrounded by loneliness and you can see that in her eyes, but what you eventually see more of is pure desperation and malice. She’s a trademark sociopath: sweet when she needs to be, threatening when she needs to be, and Huppert nails it all. She’s terrifying, hilarious, and has this heavy presence that looms over the entire film. You want to see Huppert dance around while psychologically torturing people? This is your movie. Moretz more than holds her own against her, though, and they made for a very entertaining pair. It was also nice to see Maika Monroe, who is basically a modern Jamie Lee Curtis with how often she stars in schlocky horror films.

Those excellent performances and strong technical aspects can only go so far, as the script is extremely lacking. Jordan co-wrote the film with Ray Wright and it’s one of those stories that starts off strong, but slowly devolves into a somewhat predictable slog. From the get go, it’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen, but I was enjoying it. However, the credibility was increasingly getting stretched and the characters made stupider and stupider decisions as it went on. The third act is especially frustrating, as it has false ending after false ending, and it’s never as tense as the first two acts. This all sort of added to that old school, B-movie feeling, though. At least Jordan and Wright made sure there was a decent enough emotional core, with Frances looking to Greta as a surrogate mother, which Greta uses to manipulate her.

While Greta is very derivative and doesn’t go as crazy as it should to be a real treat, it’s still an entertaining little thriller that has some stellar performances and a nice style. You have two actresses that are some of the best in their respective generations going at it for 90 minutes, getting to be totally unhinged in their performances. What’s not to enjoy? 

6.5/10

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