Not quite the rollercoaster ride through bleak teenage angst as one might expect from the opening stanza when introduced to a myriad of misery as outspoken, staunch, Jonquil ‘Jonny’ Baptiste (Kiah McKirnan) is sent to stay with her mysterious Aunt Hildie (Alicia Silverstone) and attend a new school.
The pair have an unspoken connection, in a moment of satanic growth, Hildie bites her tongue but Jonny bleeds. Heading towards eighteen, Jonny unlocks further changes, including telekinetic abilities and shapeshifting techniques. Not yet fully controllable.
Wildfire weirdness continues in class when the school has unusual survival drills led by the psychotic principal Burke (Christopher Lowell) whilst fellow classmates take their time to bond with Jonny, she remains defiant, however when they do start getting a long, it becomes life affirming due to a growing missing persons list targeting female students.
There’s more questions unanswered than I would have liked, Perpetrator leaves outcomes to the masses to decide themselves. The slow pace may not suffice, momentum practically halts proceedings long before the crescendo hits.
Strong directing By Jennifer Reeder (many ideas abound and risks taken, she has made a hallucinatory, supernatural coming of age mystery chiller.
A strong feminist point throughout works in interesting ways, friendship and family no matter how obscure remains strong. Attempting to gain trust, Hilde seems quite adept approaching witchcraft-like actions including presenting a blood-soaked birthday cake for Jonny to indulge and open her mind.
Disturbing medical-style scenes concerning the student kidnappings and various twists towards the ‘perpetrator’ are provocative but not entirely satisfying. Gore fans will certainly enjoy the claret flow.
As Cher Horowitz, Alicia Silverstone remains iconic in Clueless (1995) although here she is not what you may expect as Hilde, older than appearing to be, gruesome histrionics are not beyond her and Silverstone is demonic but delightful. A hard thing to master at once.
Super proficient Kiah McKirnan, is a wonderful choice as tangible teen Jonny, Sadly, dynamic Audrey Francis as Marcy is underused.
A mesmerising score and select songs, in particular Every Beat of my Heart by The Starr Sisters, standout.
Not one of the most absorbing Shudder originals, there’s still plenty to appreciate if you can decipher it.
Horror | USA, 2023 | Shudder | 1st September 2023 | Dir. Jennifer Reeder | Taylor Kinkead, Christopher Lowell, Kiah McKirnan, Alicia Silverstone, Tim Hopper, Vic Kuligoski, Audrey Francis
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