I watched this movie not knowing what to expect except for Kevin Zegers. I definitely got a lot of Kevin Zegers (I secretly/not-so-secretly love him) along with a steady parade of other familiar faces. I think Katharine Isabelle was the most surprising face to see – which is silly, because she’s popped up in a lot of the movies I’ve watched this year. And there’s not even the pretense of secrecy around how much I love Katharine Isabelle.
As a horror movie, this one is a bit lacking. If you’re looking for sharp fangs and violent bloodlettings, you’ll want to look elsewhere. But as a social commentary, a dramatic character study, a story…well, it’s quite compelling. Kevin Zegers performs admirably and displays greater range as Simon than in any other role I’ve seen him play. It’s disturbingly easy to relate to him, even as his actions and words alienate him from the world around him.
This movie is slow and long, but I didn’t find my attention wavering at all, even when it became clear that this wasn’t going to be the terror-filled masterpiece I was hoping for. It’s artsy and surreal and more than a little absurd, but it’s handled with such grace and sincerity that I forgot most of my nitpicking questions and concerns about the details.
Except for one: Laura King, played delightfully psychotically and believably by Rachel Leigh Cook. She feels too unrealistic as a character, leaning too far into caricature or stereotype territory to properly fit in with the rest of the film’s universe. The balloons, the ridiculously ornate and anachronistic glass jugs Simon uses for exsanguination, and the online community “Side by Cide” are all a bit silly in their own way – but it’s a silly that fits with the characters and the story. Laura is meant to be an outsider to Simon and his life, but comes off instead like an outsider to the movie itself.
And she seems mostly unnecessary. (Spoilers ahead) Simon’s social awkwardness is apparent even without the addition of her character, as is his propensity for solitude. It could be argued that she’s the catalyst for Simon’s police showdown (I use the term very loosely here) at the end. She does ultimately uncover Simon’s secret in a desperate snooping attempt driven by her apparently instantaneous obsession with Simon and his mother (presumably due to her “rough childhood”, a line I can only imagine was meant to excuse or at least explain how foreign she feels in that world).
But even that seems forced and unnecessary, particularly because Simon’s carelessness is displayed early and often without needing Laura to illuminate it. It’s because of this recklessness, in fact, that Renfield’s character poses any threat to Simon in the first place. It seems like it would have been easier and more fitting for Laura’s (step-?)brother Abbott to find something that links Simon to a crime scene, and it certainly would have made the movie shorter. That said, Rachel Leigh Cook’s performance is fantastic even if her character isn’t.
There’s not a lot of violence in this and there aren’t any jump scares, but I imagine the appeal for this movie is pretty narrow. If you’re into horror-adjacent, somewhat ethereal, mildly melodramatic movies (with Kevin Zegers) – and I definitely am, unless the movie in question is Melancholia – this one’s for you.