The Neon Demon of musicals.
The Perfection, Netflix’s latest original film starring Alison Williams and Logan Browning, is anything but what its title states. Quite the opposite, in fact. Marketed as a provocative arthouse body-horror, The Perfection proves to be the ol’ bait-and-switch, resulting in a tonal mishmash that exudes not horror, but unintentional hilarity.
Former musical prodigy Charlotte (Williams) returns to meet her mentor Anton (Steven Weber) after taking leave to care for her sick mother. While there, she meets Anton’s latest star-student Lizzie (Browning), and the two embark on a truly twisted journey.
The Perfection is nothing more than a collection of admittedly interesting (and others not so much) film-making techniques strung together in a monumentally cack-handed way, resulting in the film feeling like three different stories glued together. Badly. One part wannabe Hitchcock thriller, one part 2000’s creature-feature body-horror, and another part Scream 5 test-footage, and final part abused vs. abuser redemption story. While the framing and lighting occasionally impresses, it can hardly mask such storytelling flaws.
The film begins rather strongly, holding on long, ambient shots of the environment and Alison Williams’ mug that clearly establish a morose and melancholy tone, and an intriguing under-reliance on dialogue and some poorly directed and acted sensuality. This is dropped almost twenty minutes later in favour of gross-out CGI “horror”. Then, in a bizarre but sadly unsurprising move, the film rewinds itself to explain this first twist. This happens more than once, instilling fear that the film will force you to relive itself.
This poor technique is where The Perfection firsts starts to fail. It encapsulates the laziness of the storytelling and the of the film-making itself, proving to be laughable and killing any iota of tension the film had built up. From there on out, it all goes to hell. The revelations behind certain character motivations seem so totally unfounded that, instead of pulling a Psycho and making you live in fear for the rest of the film, you find yourself laughing at pieces of human cardboard trying to kill each other. OR ARE THEY? Motivations for these motivations are indeed saved for the sake of a twist, but had the audience known previously, even been hinted at it slightly, the film may have not failed on the level it has. And considering the focus on music throughout the film, certain audio aspects beggar belief (one climactic music change from classical to hip-hop stands out as particularly funny).
A rather insulting aspect of the story is the theme of abuse assumed throughout the film’s final act being very noticeably influenced by the #MeToo movement. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with a story assuming much more important themes concerning real-life issues, especially regarding as progressive a movement as that, the delivery of those themes, in dialogue and visual aspects, amidst the tonal calamity the film exudes feels tacked on and unearned. Had the film focused on aspects such as this a bit more, rather than on making it twistier than a buggered corkscrew, it may have fared better as a piece of timely art. Such references deserve better representation. Even Halloween (2018) knew that.
Williams, clearly opting for Scream-Queen status following Get Out, within the opening twenty minutes, she is quite impressive. Her body-language showing her character brilliantly, and she proves a capable physical actress. However, after this display, she is simply awful. Not one line is delivered convincingly, nor ever appears as human as her character seems to be. Browning, meanwhile, proves to nearly be the opposite. During William’s shining opener, she fails to convince as a human being. However, once things begin to run amok, she emotes like crazy. She, quite simply, becomes the best part of the film due to her noticeable commitment to this lunacy.
Netflix seems to make a mild killing in releasing visually impressive films that have no effort put into their stories, and The Perfection is sadly no different. While it shows signs of potentially interesting experimentation, these only serve to disappoint. Shabbily directed, poorly-acted, awfully edited, and unimaginatively-written, this is one big bum note.