Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Perfection

The Perfection (2019)

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A former cello prodigy (Allison Williams) returns to her mentor (Steven Weber) after taking care of her dying mother for nearly ten years. She meets her mentor's new protege (Logan Browning) and, despite the two of them having clear reasons for rivalry, they begin a relationship. The two women go on a back-road tour of China together and everything goes absolutely fucking haywire.

I don't usually do this, but I'm going to include a content warning, not for this review but for the movie itself, because there's some kind of startling shit that comes seemingly out of nowhere and might be upsetting for people. Some potential triggers in this movie include: self-harm (specifically cutting and attempted suicide), hand mutilation, amputation, vomiting, uncontrolled urination/diarrhea, and rape.


  • This is one of those movies that is broken up into "chapters", which ordinarily I find annoying and pretentious - if I wanted to read a book, I would - but because this movie feels like about four different movies, it works to ease the tonal changes (+1)
  • The cello is the most sexual of the string instruments (+1)
  • The chemistry between Allison Williams and Logan Browning is phenomenal, especially in the first two "chapters". Honestly, this movie hooked me with the promise of bugs in the trailer, and held me with the characters and relationship I wanted to know more about (+2)
  • There are scary bugs in the movie (+2)
  • The situation that the two leads find themselves in in the first half of the movie feels very organic. The performance from Logan Browning especially feels very real and makes it that much more upsetting (+1)
  • Up until the final chapters of the movie, I was left guessing as to who was actually an absolute fucking monster and who was just damaged (+1)
  • Actually, through pretty much the whole thing I was asking myself "where the fuck are they going with this". The plot keeps going in unexpected directions and the whole tone of the movie shifts several times, which is interesting. At no point did I feel confident that I knew what was going to happen. I've said it before but I need to stress that I am a jaded fucking asshole and I get really excited when I watch a horror movie that is even a little bit unpredictable. The Perfection went beyond that, surprising me almost constantly. I didn't even pick up my phone through the whole thing, and I'm the kind of person who checks my phone while I'm on my phone, so I'm giving it the coveted Golden No Phone Award that I just made up (+6)
  • It's pretty tame on the gore, showing plenty of blood but keeping the hardcore stuff off screen, which makes the one time they actually show something shockingly horrible and gross (+1)
Total: +15

  • While for the most part The Perfection is technically competent, there's something weird going on with the synch between audio and picture for the dialogue? With most movies that have any kind of budget, the audio is re-recorded after shooting, but it's one of those things that you never think about unless something went wrong somewhere, and something went wrong here. (-1)
  • The second chapter of the movie falls into the travel horror subgenre. As you can probably guess, travel horror movies are movies where somebody travels somewhere (usually either a foreign country or a remote domestic location) and something horrible happens to them. In this particular movie, it's two Americans having something horrible happen to them in a remote part of China. I have a certain disdain for this type of movie because it tends to frame other countries as, well, places where horrible things happen to people, feeding into American travel paranoia. That being said, The Perfection actually plays with this trope a little bit, touching on how travel paranoia can be overblown and more dangerous than travel itself, so I'm not going to deduct a full point here. Furthermore, this movie at least doesn't feature two white people having bad things happen to them in another country, so I'm factoring that in here as well (-0.25)
  • There are a couple of times where the film backs up to give more information by rewinding to a previous point, which is stylish but kind of tacky (-1)
  • As well, some of the cinematography (for example, in one scene a character becoming unhinged is signaled by the camera doing a full 360 degree flipsy centred on her face) is tacky (-1)
  • One of the characters loses a hand, rendering her unable to play the cello. She loses her right hand, and as horrible and traumatic as that is, most of the deft fingerwork of celloing is done by the left, at least for this particular person, while the right hand does the other part (sawing? I want to say sawing). Could she not have played the cello competently with a prosthetic? Why not? (-1)
  • Between the final villain being just cartoonishly evil, and the plot forcing the characters into the perfect position for the last shot, the ending is kind of clunky (-1)
  • There's a synth-pop cover of "Petals" by Hole at the end and I don't like it (-1)
Total: -6.25

Final Score: 8.75 thumbs up, plus the coveted Golden No Phone Award


It's pretty good! The two lead characters are interesting, and well acted. It plays with some tropes for several different horror subgenre. And there's some blood 'n' bugs, what I like to call The Big Two. It's also moderately disturbing, so for anybody not comfortable with the triggers I outlined at the start, and anybody who straight up doesn't like getting utterly fucked with for an hour and a half, I don't recommend watching it. But if you're okay with all of those things, give it a watch, says I.

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