One of the newest horror films on Netflix is The Perfection, starring Allison Williams as Charlotte and Logan Browning as Lizzie as two musicians who, at different times, studied at a prestigious music academy.
***Warning! This review contains minor spoilers!***
The Perfection starts when Charlotte’s mum dies, and she becomes finally free to live her life. We quickly learn she used to be a student at this highly selective academy, but was forced to forfeit her place in order to take care of her sick mother.
The story leads us to believe that once she is free, she goes after fellow student Lizzie in order to punish her for the life she has – everything Charlotte could’ve had.
The film, however, is not as simple. It has many twists and turns and it never fails to entertain. There are many moments where perhaps more vulnerable audiences might have felt uncomfortable while watching – personally, I loved it!
As I touched on before, the storyline is not straightforward, and most of the film is explained in flashbacks. Some might arguably say that at times these flashbacks were too on the nose, and perhaps some could’ve been left for the audiences to put together.
Nevertheless, the film keeps the interest and the curiosity of the viewer.
The music of the film, composed by Paul Haslinger, is of extreme importance. It follows the footsteps of Bernard Herrmann in films like Marnie and Psycho, and more recently Michael Abels in Us — making use of strings to cause confusion on the audience as well as on the characters.
Much like Abels, Haslinger uses his creativity and broadens the scope of the music, combining the classical aspects of the score to more recent and upbeat songs, giving the film an overall edge.
Allison Williams has been seemingly establishing herself in the horror genre ever since Get Out, and in The Perfection she is able to explore a more three dimensional character, with more twists than what she was presented with in Jordan Peele’s directorial debut.
Charlotte is a deeply disturbed woman who is allowed to ‘live’ after her mother has passed away, and as the narrative unfolds we learn she has been in and out of mental institutions and she carries the marks of her life at the academy quite literally. Now that she is free to follow her chosen path, she aims to go back to the academy – where she belongs – or so we think.
Shepard’s film falls under the rape/revenge subgenre, which has been condemned by critics and academics before. The rape in the film happens inside the academy where girls are supposed to feel safe. The educators, the very people who should be protecting the girls, perpetuate the violence.
As it has been put forward by academics, especially Carol Clover, the rape in these films is almost considered like a “male sport” – it is something that brings the men together. And in The Perfection that’s exactly the case – it’s a ritual.
Moreover, it has been stated that rape/revenge films focus on the female transformation – from victim to avenger, both physically and mentally. And here is where I believe this film deserves particular attention. It never focuses on the physicality of the rape itself, instead it focuses on the mental toll the victim endures.
Charlotte speaks openly about her life in and out of mental institutions and that is a positive rather than a negative thing for her. She is not depicted as “crazy”, but as strong.
Another point where academics struggle with this subgenre is the fact that the sexual assault works as a turning point for the victims – they are only able to become ’empowered’ after the rape. Here, the narrative is a little different. The central theme is the empowerment and strength that women have when they come together.
In The Perfection we see characters with missing pieces, literally and metaphorically, caused by the violence they have experienced. However they become ‘whole’ when they stand together and face their predators. Therefore, the mutilation and abuse the characters go through serves as a literal way of cutting their ties with their ghosts, and finally being able to move on.
The final scene reminded me of Soska Sisters’ American Mary – the depiction of the revenge and the importance the characters put on their careers. In both films the abuse means the shrinkage in their work, and a betrayal since it came from their teachers.
The betrayal almost feels like the female characters are being “put into their place”. The moment the characters start to rise up and overpower their position, the ‘powerful’ teachers feel the need to reinforce their power on them.
Another thing that is important to mention is the fact that the two central characters are lesbians, and the story is not told any differently because of that.
There is no ‘coming out’ moment, no heart-to-heart conversation, no ‘hero killing the evil lesbians’, as we would see in old vampire films. There are no queer monsters disrupting the norm, therefore there is no need to reinforce any “moral values”.
Here the film detaches itself from the long-studied idea that a number of monsters in horror films are a representation of closeted homosexuality, and brings forth the idea that perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that those monsters might be something else…
In the current social conjuncture, especially with the #metoo movement, the rape epidemic in American universities, the LGBTQ+ rise worldwide, and diversity, having all of these very current and paramount issues represented in a film adds to the importance of the feature.
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