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Longlegs is a fantastic horror film, but it’s funny, not scary

If you have heard anything at all about Long legsthe new horror film starring Nicolas Cage, you’ve probably heard someone claiming it’s one of the scariest movies ever made. From the film’s excellent marketing to the avalanche of disturbed reactions at early screenings, the lead-up to the film has been consistently claiming it’s absolutely terrifying. But it’s not. Most horror fans probably won’t find it scary at all – but that doesn’t stop it from being a great, extremely scary movie. Long legs joins the long line of classic horror thrillers like The glow And The silence of the Lambs — Films that make people fidget rather than jump. Director Osgood Perkins (The Blackcloak’s Daughter) is obviously more interested in hearing the audience’s nervous laughter than just their screams.

At first glance, the film is a fairly straightforward hunt for a serial killer with a few supernatural twists. Horror veteran Maika Monroe (It follows) plays Lee Harker, a young FBI agent who seems to be unusually talented and intuitive. As a result, she is assigned to investigate one of the FBI’s oldest mysteries: a series of brutal murders in which a father murdered his family in their own home and then killed himself. The only things that link these murders are that a daughter of the family has a birthday on the 14th of the month, and that at each of the crime scenes lies a coded, seemingly satanic note from someone calling themselves Longlegs. But there is no evidence that anyone outside the family was ever in any of the houses when the crimes occurred.

A dark figure in ghostly clothing fills most of the frame, standing in longlegs in front of a door with a cross above it.

Image: Neon

Perkins’ script plays all of these things with a deft hand, drawing visual and narrative references from films such as Zodiac, SevenAnd The silence of the Lambs to give the audience a sense of direction as quickly as possible. Within the first 20 minutes or so, we already know all the details about the case and everyone involved, giving Perkins the freedom to give the film his unique brand of offbeat creepiness.

Let’s take Lee Harker, a character who is visually modelled on The silence of the Lambs’ Clarice Starling, but without her forced toughness. Monroe plays Lee with a repulsive emptiness. She’s undoubtedly brilliant, but her interpersonal behavior is uncomfortably terse, as if talking to people or even looking at them is an unpleasant task for her, distracting her from searching for her next clue. This dynamic makes every scene she appears in disturbingly awkward, cleverly making viewers uneasy even when there are no brutal crimes on screen, and contributing to the film’s ever-increasing tension.

Perkins isn’t afraid to use Monroe’s fantastically odd portrayal for comic purposes, either. In an early scene, Lee meets the daughter of her FBI boss, Agent Carter (Blair Underwood). Sitting on the girl’s bed, her body tense, Lee examines the room like a crime scene, desperate for something to talk about. After dragging out the awkwardness, she finally picks up a ballet trophy missing its head. When Carter’s daughter says she doesn’t know where the head is, Lee comments, with a straight face, that it’s her job to find a missing head, not the girl’s. It’s a pitch-perfect joke about her own oddness, and Lee is the only one not in on it.

Blair Underwood as Agent Carter in Longlegs holds a cloth in front of her nose and looks at a crime scene that is outside the picture

Image: Neon

It’s a really funny scene, but in a refreshingly antagonistic way. It’s as if Perkins is daring us to laugh our way through the characters’ awkward discomfort. Long legs is full of these incongruous little punchlines – and as the film becomes more violent and the tone darker, they become more effective. Each one is a little challenge to see how disturbing a scene can be while still eliciting an uncomfortable giggle from the audience.

Balancing a mood like this, which is equal parts terrifying and funny, seems almost impossible, especially when slipping too far in either direction would cause the film to tip over completely. But Perkins never slips – he keeps the tension and unease perfectly balanced throughout. This tone is exactly what Long legs more creepy than scary.

Horror in this case is something physical that a film does to you: an increased heart rate, nervous sweating, muscles tensing in anticipation of an inevitable jump. Horror comes in waves. It ebbs and flows, twists and dissolves in a steady rhythm. Horror, on the other hand, is fear that is constantly building up. While the fear of a horror film arises from the expectation of the tension being released, scary In movies, fear is created by the idea that this tension may never subside.

Maika Monroe alone in a car as Lee Harker in Longlegs, screaming at the top of her lungs and gripping the steering wheel

Image: Neon

Perkins has often cited David Lynch as a source of inspiration, and films such as Mulholland Drive or Twin Peaks: Firewalk with me are prime examples of the extent of this type of horror in film. Long legs‘ In this case, every inch of the film seems designed to reinforce that oppressively uncomfortable mood and the uneasy feeling that you may never escape his particular brand of twisted, satanic weirdness. Nowhere is this more evident than in Nicolas Cage’s portrayal of Longlegs himself.

Far from the perfected psychopath that generally defines the image of a serial killer, Cage’s portrayal is built on an uncomfortable silliness. He screams in his car to hard rock music, speaks in a clownish voice more suited to a character on a children’s TV show from hell, and generally floats through scenes with a perverse exuberance that suggests he’s convinced he has Satan’s full support. It’s a thoroughly unsettling but also hilarious portrayal. Perkins lets Cage play off Longleg’s silliness for laughs, only to juxtapose it with his grisly murders immediately afterward. The humor and horror reinforce each other rather than undermine them, and each chuckle feels like diving deeper into Longleg’s own twisted, disgusting reality.

The back of Nicolas Cage's head in Longlegs as he sits at a metal table in an interrogation room

Image: Neon

Still, Cage’s performance is unmistakably great and full of bold choices. It’s probably a litmus test of whether you’re on the film’s wavelength. Long legs“The lack of direct shock moments coupled with Cage’s performance and the script’s sense of humor will likely turn some viewers off immediately, especially when combined with the exaggeration of the film’s terror through the marketing.”

Long legs is not the cross-generational horror film it is sold as. It is funny, weird and scary in just the right amounts, but that will not stop some viewers from being disappointed because their expectations were raised wrongly. With Long legsPerkins doesn’t want audiences to cringe in the cinema; he wants them to cringe later, every time they hear a noise in the dark. Or to spend a few days wondering what made them laugh at something so grotesque, even though the film invited those laughs in the first place. If we are far enough away from Long legsAlthough the marketing tries to make us forget it completely, we can still be happy that the film asks these questions in its own way.

Long legs will be in theaters on July 12th.

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