A non-existent subtext and predictable twists can make for a disappointing horror film. But “Greta” is surprisingly likable. The unpretentious film and stellar acting will have audiences both laughing and squirming. What else is one to do when a cookie cutter severes a finger?
Directed by Neil Jordan, “Greta,” adopts the familiar plot of a psychotic, stalking murderer. The only difference is the cast is made up of three women; any male character has a small amount of screen time and is irrelevant to the plot.
Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a young girl in New York City struggling with the fading memories of her recently deceased mother. She’s accompanied in life by her rich best friend and roommate, Erica (Maika Monroe), living in a contemporary, brick-walled apartment in Manhattan.
Finding an unattended designer bag on a subway train, good Samaritan Frances picks it up and plans to return it. Erica tries to convince her that no one in New York returns lost purses and that the cash in the bag should fund their next spa day.
Erica’s character lacks any kind of depth but definitely has an important role as simultaneously being a voice of reason and a source of comic relief.
When returning the purse, Frances befriends its owner Greta (Isabelle Huppert), a lonely, recently widowed pianist. A mother-daughter relationship quickly develops between them. Greta appears as a smiley, lovable French woman — but only for a short time.
Frances stumbles upon multiple bags in a cabinet, just like the one she discovered on the train. Each have a sticky note to label girls’ names and numbers, and of course, she finds one including her own. Overly dramatic, gimmicky music signals suspense, even when unnecessary, but it definitely gets hearts racing.
From characters failing to call the cops when it’s obviously necessary to Frances locking Greta in a chest using a tiny Eiffel Tower knick knack, the movie will have viewers throwing their hands up in frustration. Frances is prone to bad decisions and too many situations could have easily been avoided. Things like this make it easy to write off “Greta” as a poorly made horror film that’s only intriguing because of the effective jump scares.
It’s not particularly gory. But Huppert’s wide eyes and desperation makes for an uneasy audience, followed by startling jumps when she appears behind every corner and on every train.
Huppert is easily the most redeeming part of the film. Watching the Oscar-winning actress transition from a lovable, lonely widow into a monstrous stalker is mesmerizing. Her performance as a sophisticated, yet disturbed woman, who loves tea and Chopin is terrifying and hilariously amusing.
Moretz’s performance doesn’t measure up. It’s a lot to follow, but she works way too hard to play the part as a nervous, wounded gazelle and it’s unconvincing from the beginning. Huppert is able to transform an ordinary script into a captivating movie. But her character may be more memorable than the movie itself.
While “Greta” isn’t a breakthrough horror film, it has refreshing elements and wonderful performances. Watching Huppert flip over a table and cause a scene in a restaurant as classical music crescendos might make the whole movie worth watching.
“Greta,” rated R, is now showing in theaters nationwide.