Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Melanie Liburd, Kiah McKirnan, Casimere Jollette, Christopher Lowell, Tim Hopper, Josh Bywater, Sasha Kuznetsov, Ilirida Memedovski, and Greta Stolte
Director: Jennifer Reeder
Despite the intriguing synopsis and its Midnight Madness horror vibe, this movie just did not do it for me. It’s never lacking in gore or violence, but the whole affair feels like a slightly elevated student film, from the amateurish acting to the over-the-topness of it all. It’s angry, visceral feminist horror, which isn’t a bad thing when done well, but Perpetrator plays more like a visual art experiment than a coherent movie, overstuffed with too many ideas and big swings at extreme and campy rawness. All that said, Cronenberg die-hards might find something here worth their while.
Perpetrator presents a plethora of compelling ideas on feminism, girlhood, and violence, and while it’s difficult to specify precisely what the film is trying to say, it effectively uses surreal imagery, gory visuals, and oozing blood to confront issues familiar to young women everywhere. My only issue is that it's too ambitious. I loved the unsettling, almost Lynchian vibe of the town setting, the dramatically gothic interiors of Hildie's (Alicia Silverstone) house, and the nightmarish logic at play in the school, but there are too many competing ideas; some of the more impactful ones become distracted or lost entirely.
It feels wrong picking on Perpetrator. It has some really ambitious concepts, and a scrappy, can-do attitude that just makes you want to root for it. Unfortunately, amateur filmmaking can only be charming for so long before it starts to become unwatchable. The mediocre cinematography, abysmal effects, and corny editing make this feel more like a poorly realised student film than a worthwhile feature. Kiah McKirnan tries her best, but her performance isn’t strong enough to save the muddled script. While I applaud the passion put into Perpetrator, I can’t deny its severe lack of polish.
This film was reviewed by Quentin as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2023 Berlinale International Film Festival.