They say Chivalry is dead, that there’s no kindness left in the world. For Frankie, the protagonist of the new thriller Greta, her chivalrous actions lead to some dangerous results. Directed by Neil Jordan of Interview With The Vampire fame, Greta stars Chloe Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, and the legendary Isabel Huppert as the titular Greta. When Moretz’s Frankie finds a purse on the subway, she intends to return the lost item to it’s owner, leading Frankie to a toxic friendship with deadly repercussions.
Though Greta in many ways is a stalker flick that you’ve seen before, the movie does attempt to add some layers to the tropes of the genre. Off the bat, it’s clear Frankie didn’t binge Abducted in Plain Sight as you watch her make questionable choices throughout the film, starting with going into Greta’s house to begin with. The movie is aware that Frankie is a bit naive, not used to city living, so they try to rationalize her actions with some emotional weight. Moretz is charming enough in the role, but her character wasn’t particularly strong.
Neil Jordan is an experienced director, and you see it the production. The film showcases Manhattan as a setting, which is integral to the story and the sound design also aids in capturing the feel of the bustling city. The biggest highlight of the film is easily the performances. From Let Me In and It Follows to Elle, these 3 ladies are no strangers to the thriller/horror genre. Moretz overcomes most of the awkwardness of the script and delivers a relatable performance. We all know the feeling of starting life in a new place, getting used to an unfamiliar city but you also feel how genuine she is in wanting to becomes friends with Greta.
As much as Moretz shines, Isabelle Huppert is the star of the film. When you have a film legend like Huppert at your disposal, it’s hard not to let her shine a little brighter. Huppert oozes charisma as Greta, while also bringing a humanity to the character before she reveals her true self. Whether it’s her fantastic sense of fashion or her animated outbursts, Huppert is a delight any time she’s on screen. Even when she is doing morbid things to Frankie. You know from he first few minutes of meeting Greta that something is off, but like Frankie, you’re distracted by her charm until it’s too late. The story get’s drastically darker in the third act, which is when the film is at its best. The things that were charming about Greta are now unnerving, as she literally dances around her living room while committing violent acts. We do not deserve Isabelle Huppert. What a gem!
As one of modern horror’s recognizable scream queens, Maika Monroe has a supporting role here. I liked Erica because she’s basically the audience, constantly calling Frankie out for her lack of forethought and naivety. It doesn’t always work because the script does ask you to be quite forgiving, but again, Maika’s charm wins you over. And though she isn’t the star, her scream queen status remains intact, with the most satisfying scene of the film.
The script is what holds the movie back from being great. I see what they were trying to do, taking their time laying down an emotional foundation for the friendship between Frankie and Greta, but the film takes too long, repeating beats. The more time that passes, the more you poke holes at the logic of Frankie’s decisions. This also results in wonky pacing, that slows down the second act big time. Though the trailer says otherwise, Greta is a lot lighter on horror elements than you would assume. The film doesn’t embrace its horror identity until the third act, which is a shame because you wish you were watching that movie when it finally comes. I’m on board with building the characters and their relationships for emotional depth, but they could have trimmed quite a bit.
Once we get to the true horror of the film, Greta becomes a ride you don’t want to get off. Greta becomes maniacal and absolutely chews up the scenery. I had forgotten the movie as rated R because of it’s tame beginnings but found myself shocked at times in the later half. Rather than playing it straight, Greta might have worked better as a super dark horror-comedy, letting Huppert really go off the rails, in line with non-traditional hostages movies like Funny Games (1997) or Knock, Knock (2015). The third act has some genuinely great, intense, and terrifying scenes. I saw the movie Neil Jordan wanted to make, but I left yearning to watch the movie that could have been.
Did you get a chance to see Greta in the cinema this weekend? What would you do in Frankie’s situation? Let’s chat on Twitter, in the official NOFS Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!