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‘Longlegs’ Is Easily the Scariest Movie of the Year (So Far)

Maika Monroe stars as rookie FBI agent Lee Harker, who is assigned the difficult task of tracking down an elusive suspect known as the Longlegs Killer.
Courtesy of NEON

“Longlegs” — 3.5 stars

“Longlegs,” nerve-jangling and devilishly bleak, stands out as the scariest movie of 2024 so far. Set against the backdrop of Clinton-era 1990s America, writer-director Osgood “Oz” Perkins has crafted a bone-chilling piece of supernatural horror disguised as a serial killer thriller. The film weaves a lingering and sinister spell that leaves a lasting impact.

Maika Monroe, already well-known in the genre for roles in “The Guest,” “It Follows,” and “Watcher,” gives her best performance yet as Lee Harker. Lee, a rookie FBI agent, is a watchful loner whose uncanny intuition for identifying perpetrators—or possibly some form of evil ESP—earns her a special assignment to track the Longlegs Killer.

The Longlegs Killer gets his name from cryptic notes signed and left at a series of gruesome murder-suicides in the rural Pacific Northwest. He’s an enigma, a serial killer who turns family men violently against their wives and children, leaving no evidence of his presence. Monroe portrays Lee with deep introversion, moving stiffly through her bleak world where she’s more at ease with grisly crime scene photos and occult symbols than with human interactions.

Echoes of “Se7en,” “Zodiac,” and especially “Silence of the Lambs” are evident, with Lee positioned as a modern-day Clarice Starling. The film’s hallucinogenic editing by Greg Ng and Graham Fortin, along with Andres Arochi’s patient camera work and Eugenio Battaglia’s jarring sound design, combine to evoke a potent sense of menace. This crafting results in effective jump scares, nightmare-inducing images, and ominous negative spaces within the frame.

The story deepens as Lee’s investigation shifts, and she becomes the hunted. Her mind begins to recall a long-buried childhood memory of a ghoulish stranger with a singsong voice. Once the audience gets a full glimpse of Longlegs, he’s hard to forget.

Nicolas Cage plays his most unhinged role to date, initially handled with restraint. His features are cropped just enough out of the frame to spark the imagination. When fully revealed, Cage is unnaturally pallid and grotesquely altered with facial prostheses, creating a skin-crawling effect. This reveals an obsessive character deeply into ’70s glam rock. Cage’s portrayal cements Longlegs as one of the great horror villains, never allowing the audience to hear T. Rex’s “Get It On” the same way again.

Monroe remains the steady center of this slow-burn thriller, acting opposite Lee’s religious hoarder mother (played fantastically by Alicia Witt) and Lee’s affable boss, Agent Carter (Blair Underwood). However, it’s the strange and intense interactions with the Longlegs Killer’s only known survivor (mesmerizingly played by Kiernan Shipka) that bring the film’s conclusion to a chilling peak, even if the plot takes some unconvincing late turns.

Perkins, who began his acting career in 1983 by playing the younger version of his father Anthony in “Psycho II,” excels in unmooring viewers from their sense of safety, even from the nostalgia and stories we tell ourselves for comfort. His skillful use of aspect ratio and composition blankets his fourth feature in a shroud of unsettling wrongness. As Cage and Monroe enact their unorthodox cat-and-mouse game, the cleverly designed end credits ensure viewers leave with a lingering sense of visceral unease.

Rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language, satanic panic, and Nicolas Cage rage. The film is 101 minutes long.

Source: IndieWire