With a confusing timeline and stereotypical horror moments, ‘Greta’ doesn’t leave a lasting impression

 By Jessica Owoc

March 1, 2019

Greta is being billed as a “horror mystery” but it feels like a cheesy horror film dressed up as an artistic thriller. With some unbelievable plot points and few cheap jump scares, the film is saved by its performances and the fun of watching a film that is far sillier than its creators intended.

When New York transplant Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace Moretz) finds a handbag on the subway, she doesn’t hesitate in returning it to its owner Greta (Isabelle Huppert), a lonely widow who has lost everyone close to her, even her dog. Perhaps it’s Frances’s naivete or the fact she recently lost her mother, but it doesn’t take long for Frances and Greta to strike up a friendship. Soon enough, things go south when Frances discovers she isn’t the only one who’s found one of Greta’s handbag on the subway. When Frances cuts ties with Greta, Greta develops an unhealthy obsession with Frances that turns dangerous.

Chloë Grace Moretz as Frances McCullen. Courtesy of Focus Features

The film seems to have no concept of time. It’s unclear what year the film is taking place (why would young, right-out-of-college-aged girls actively use a landline AND have iPhones?) and you never know just how much time has passed between any given set of moments, so it’s hard to feel invested in what’s happening. Greta and Frances meet, Frances helps her pick out a dog, and then Frances’s friend Erica (Makia Monroe) is talking about how Frances and Greta spend too much time together. Audiences don’t see a bond form between Greta and Frances, so the reversal of their relationship doesn’t feel like the betrayal that Frances seems to think it is. The revelation feels unsatisfying and rushed where a slow build of suspicious behaviour may have worked better.

Huppert gives a convincing performance as the lonely psychopath preying on young girls around the city. You don’t know whether to laugh or be terrified as she dances around to classical music after completing a horrific task. Moretz was convincing as the young, innocent woman who get caught up in Greta’s game. Despite a few moments of over-acting, Moretz holds her own against the dynamic Huppert.

Maika Monroe as Erica Penn. Courtesy of Focus Features

However, Greta doesn’t offer anything new to the horror/thriller genre and frequently falls into familiar tropes and unbelievable scenarios. The whole film hinges on the premise that Greta leaves handbags around the city, waiting for someone to return them. It’s hard to imagine a world where most people wouldn’t just take it to a police station. Showing up at a stranger’s doorstep in Brooklyn doesn’t seem a plausible choice for anyone to make, even for our ingenue Frances. The main “scares” occur as Greta continues to show up in all aspects of Frances life (her job, apartment, etc.) leading to a few suspenseful moments but really only resulting in a jump scare here and there. And, in typical horror film fashion, the villain is able to withstand harsh blows and be able to jump right back up; more than once did Greta have the tenacity of Michael Myers to get back up and catch the protagonist off guard even when you thought she’s down for the count.

Chloë Grace Moretz as Frances McCullen and Isabelle Huppert as Greta Hideg

The trailer to Greta makes the movie appear to be more intense than it actually is. As I sat in the theatre, the entire audience was actively participating throughout the film, yelling at our heroine to “not go into the basement!” While I don’t think this was the intent of the film, it certainly made it enjoyable to watch even at its more unbelievable moments. The performances and the fun atmosphere created in the theater could be enough to carry it through, but with scare tactics that were only mildly effective, .  

Star Rating: 2.5 out 5 

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