The Giant is a film that is hard to put into words because its language is so distinctly visual and instinctual. It’s a film about feelings. Feelings of impending doom, anxiety, dread, loss of innocence, restlessness, and fleeting moments. Following teenaged Charlotte as she attempts to grapple with the suicide of her mother, The Giant takes us on a dark journey through the fear of the unknown that starts when her missing boyfriend reappears on the same night that a series of murders in her hometown begin.
The entire film plays like a waking nightmare. You’re never really sure what is real and what isn’t. It is temporally and spatially disorienting in ways that make it both a frustrating and rewarding puzzle. Set in smalltown Georgia, it is rife with Southern Gothic themes and images. Charlotte’s house creaks with every step, leading us down dark hallways, past doorways for rooms you can’t quite see into. The “house as metaphor” angle is nothing new, but it certainly works here as the film brings us deeper and deeper into Charlotte’s psyche.
“The entire film plays like a waking nightmare […] temporally and spatially disorienting in ways that make it both a frustrating and rewarding puzzle.”
Odessa Young (Assassination Nation) gives a breakout performance as Charlotte that is captivating and devastating. This film loves an extreme close-up and Young has a perfect face for them. Dialogue throughout is minimal, but she has the incredible ability to say it all with an expression, while also viscerally embodying the empty haze of depression.
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Everyone in this film is more of a ghost than an actual person. The characters all feel far away, which is exactly how depression feels at its most isolating. Surrounding Charlotte are he ex-boyfriend, Joe (Ben Schnetzer), her father (P.J. Marshall), and her best friend Olivia (Madelyn Cline). Marshall is a menacing presence, adding to the uncomfortable atmosphere of the film, while Cline gives a vulnerability to Olivia that make her scenes with Young full of yearning.
Shot on film (an expensive rarity these days), Raboy hauntingly captures the texture of a hot, endless summer where orange dusk lasts forever. Eric Yue’s cinematography is so beautiful it hurts. The aforementioned close-ups create a sense of claustrophobia juxtaposed with the vast expanse of sky, clouds, and field of the country. The sound design is also worth a mention because with every firecracker pop, thunderclap, and insect buzz, the tension builds.
This is a movie that merely teases the idea of a real monster. Girls are definitely dying and we’re never sure what’s lurking just beyond the screen, but the film is more interested in Charlotte’s emotional distance from what’s happening than the horrific events themselves. Ultimately, it’s a melancholic film about memory and that indefinable feeling when everything familiar becomes unfamiliar.
“a movie that merely teases the idea of a real monster”
The Giant isn’t a traditional thriller, but it is one that stays with you. Its stream-of-consciousness is a seductive mode of storytelling and if you’re willing to allow it to wash over you, you’re in for one hell of a ride.
The Giant celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival on September 7. TIFF 2019 runs September 5-September 15 and The GIant has an additional screening Saturday, September 14 at 3:30 PM. You can find all of our reviews, interviews, and news of the festival HERE, as well as on Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!