Culture Film & TV

Film review: Not perfect, but ‘The Perfection’ is twisty, nasty fun ★★★☆☆

The new Netflix horror thankfully subverts expectations.

If you’re getting comfortable to watch Netflix’s new horror-thriller film The Perfection having seen the trailer, don’t be so sure which kind of picture awaits.

That taster – likely annoyingly autoplayed as you searched for another title – is as misleading as the plot of director Richard Shepard’s film, only not in that intentional sense. The trailer promises unremarkable, jumpy and gory horror fare destined to be lost and forgotten in the mire of cookie-cutter shockers rife in any streaming library. Of course, there is still an audience for such.

But thankfully, The Perfection has a touch more than that – at least in terms of twisty flair and bonkers, nasty fun.

Allison Williams (Get Out and Girls – the latter also directed by Shepard) stars as Charlotte, an uncommonly talented classical musician once the pupil of elite music academy Bachoff (yes, like that), but forced to drop out to care for her terminally ill mother. When said mother has passed, she reunites with the school’s head Anton (Steven Weber) and even more significantly Lizzie (Logan Browning), a graduate of Bachoff and Charlotte’s successor as Anton’s most prized protégé.

Charlotte’s jealousy of Lizzie appears viciously all-consuming even after they perform together, striking more than just a musical chemistry as a night on the town becomes a night together in Lizzie’s bed. They then embark on a fateful bus trip together which marks the beginning of an unravelling of sinister secrets, concealed motives and increasingly wild twists and turns tied up in the women’s pasts and talent.

More revenge-thriller than horror, The Perfection would be vastly worse-off were it not for its numerous narrative twists. Although those revelations are handled somewhat cumbersomely, substance rather wins over style and the execution is forgiven thanks to the swerves being genuinely unpredictable and – just about – plausible while still wild. Don’t bother jumping to any premature conclusions as far as the plot is concerned.

Browning, left, and Williams carry the film in central roles. Credit: Vanja Cernjul/Netflix

The two female leads are strong and carry the film along assuredly, Williams especially impressive in a role defined by unreadability and calculating calm – I don’t recall her uttering a word until almost five minutes into the movie. She is making a name for herself as an accomplished fit for deceptively unassuming, chilling turns, having earned plaudits for her performance as Rose in 2017’s Get Out.

The writing and performances alone distinguish this from the forgettably generic, but there is also stylish cinematography from Vanja Cernjul – heightened, claustrophobic shots over characters’ shoulders – and several neatly-woven sequences soundtracked by the thematic cellos and a wonderful score from Paul Haslinger, who has also written music for Fear the Walking Dead and Underworld.

As a descent into the preposterous becomes a plummet and the narrative veers towards derivative exploitation territory, the momentum slows – one particular climactic shot is designed to shock, but mostly only succeeds in revealing dodgy CGI – yet proceedings remain engaging and grimly satisfying enough.

It’s far from perfect – but this Netflix horror produces thrills altogether superior to cheap jump-scares and pointless splatter. The Perfection is a refreshing subversion of what it could so easily have been. It is also nuts.

The Perfection (18) is on Netflix now

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