Peter Strickland, UK, 2018
It started so well, but I was disappointed by the end. It’s a film of two halves – maybe something to do with Ben Wheatley’s involvement as executive producer, as his films are like that.
So the first half was great. Strickland creates these strange but slightly glamorous worlds, takes the normal and puts it through a kaleidoscope (literally, sometimes, with multilayered shots and refracted light). The sound adds to the image, snatches of half-heard whispers and sinister carnival-type music.
I like this strange world, where the shop assistant in the perfect 50s department store is a sinister scarlet red lipsticked and nail varnished mannequin who speaks in obscure yet poetic language.
It reminds me of both old Hammer films and the giallo horrors of Dario Argento. Weird people, garish colours, over-stuffed attics and freaky dolls – dream-like horror. And there’s a malevolent dress that has it in for Marianne Jean-Baptiste’s humble and trying-to-pick-herself-up-again-in-midlife Sheila.
Strickland does it so well, this kind of atmosphere. Then halfway through we lose Sheila and we’re with new characters. While there are many links with the former world (the department store, the bank where Sheila worked, the dress, the washing machine), it just didn’t quite work for me. It changed the mood into something more knowingly comical, so pulled me out of where I was, like waking up from a dream and slowly coming back to consciousness. The disaster end scene was great, though.
So, all in all, a bit disappointed. But it was late, and I was tired and under the weather, so that probably didn’t help. Tonight: Mexican bonkersness with Carlos Reygadas!