Go big or go home. Those must have been the words foremost in the mind of Neil Jordan, the director and co-writer (with Ray Wright) of Greta, during the making of this film. It is the story of Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young, bereaved innocent in New York City, and Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert), the psycho stalker who insinuates herself into and then dominates Frances’ life.
Subtlety and nuance have no place in Greta. Instead, the film wears its bloody heart on its sleeve. There are no subtexts, cautionary lessons or moral conundrums to decipher – no food for thought underpinning the film’s outrageous acts. Like a B horror movie in which we know the group shouldn’t drive out to the remote cabin in the woods or open the door to the basement, we have strong premonitions (based on decades of experience as viewers) of what horror will befall the protagonists should they disavow the genre’s rules.
Despite the build-up of these horror expectations, there is no predicting how deliciously enjoyable it is to witness the macabre dance performed by Moretz and Huppert, two of the best actresses working in today’s movies. They play their game of cat and mouse with claws out; by the end of the berserko film, their characters are practically swinging from the rafters. Everyone appears to be having a grand time in Greta, and it would be crass for us as viewers to not respond similarly.
Frances is a recent graduate sharing a loft in Manhattan with her friend Erica Penn (Maika Monroe). Frances waits tables at an upscale restaurant and is still mourning the death of her recently deceased mother. She’s smart but dumb in the way that characters in horror movies can be counted on to do the dopiest things.
Their meeting starts off innocently enough. The sweet and naive Frances is determined to return a handbag she finds on the subway to its owner. She brings the bag to Greta, an eccentric French piano teacher who loves classical music. The two quickly become friends, and before you know it, Frances is ensnared in Huppert’s sad, lonely widow mystique as Greta. But as soon as Frances wises up to the situation (in a spectacular reveal) and tries to cut Greta from her life, the older woman turns into an obsessive menace who seems a tad more crazy than diabolical.
Neil Jordan has a liking for horror films as can be seen in such movies of his as The Company of Wolves, Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, and In Dreams show. However, more than paranormal creepy-crawlies, Jordan returns again and again to naturalistic stories with monstrous characters (i.e., Mona Lisa, The Crying Game, The Butcher Boy).
His aim for Greta seems to be a stylish but pulpy story. Horror devotees might wish for more blood and less predictability in Jordan’s latest, but anyone who thrills to horror that seeps forth in a more psychological than physical vein should slice into Greta.
GRETA ( 3 ) • Directed by Neil Jordan • Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Isabelle Huppert, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea, Zawe Ashton • Not Rated • 98 min. • At Osio Theater, Lighthouse Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas, Maya Cinemas