Queen of Earth

Queen of Earth ★★½

Attempts to channel Polanski's Repulsion—admittedly a high bar, so points for ambition—but ends up being little more than an idea of what a psychological horror film should look like. Relationship between Moss' and Waterston's characters, which should be the crux of the film, is glaringly schematic, with no sense that the deteriorating relationship is anything to be mourned. In fact there's not really any sense of progression—even "deteriorating" is kind of a poor choice of words, since the question then is: deteriorating from what? There's no sense of a bond other than thinly veiled cruelty, even if we are to accept that the flashback sequences are distorted by Catherine's perspective, which brings us to the larger issue: that the film's point of view is maddeningly inconsistent. The problem isn't necessarily that it doesn't conform to Catherine's perspective, but by consistently shifting from Catherine to Virginia in an attempt to flesh out the relationship, the psychological-horror abstractions (viz. dinner party scene breakdown, Catherine's monologue to Rich, and the later conversation between the two) become risible rather than frightening, losing much of their potency in the process. As such, the open hostility, apparent throughout, can't even be chalked up to subjectivity of perspective, since the film shifts so frequently, often straining for effect. Formally, it tends to repeat itself as well; shots of rippling water laid over various close-ups—juxtaposing external serenity with internal turmoil—interest at first, then (as with the score) quickly become tiresome. And if there's one thing that this type of film should communicate, it isn't effort. First half is ultimately stronger than the second, if only because it's not clear yet where the film is headed, and even when it's not quite working, it remains absorbing on a strictly performative level. All told, Moss and Waterston do admirable work, but their performances ultimately can't survive in a vacuum. A shame, since Repulsion + Persona is one heck of a premise.

(Also, if Perry was going for something like the disgusting rabbit in Repulsion, couldn't he have picked something other than a salad? I can think of far grosser things than wilted greens.)

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