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Overhyped Horror That Lacks Seriousness

In a landscape saturated with dark procedural dramas, Nicolas Cage’s performance in “Longlegs” stands out not because it perfectly fits the film’s tone, but precisely because it does not. Cage goes larger-than-life in his role, offering a captivating turn that feels both campy and psychodramatic. This choice makes you wish the film itself embraced a similar tone, reminiscent of the dark comedy and anxiety-inducing narratives seen in “Rosemary’s Baby” or “Hereditary.” Unlike the brooding, straight-faced mystery that defines “Longlegs,” Cage’s unconventional approach could have seen success in a narrative that matched his energy.

The film does not stay grounded for long, introducing supernatural elements from its very start. The plot centers on a series of seemingly unrelated serial murders spanning 30 years. In each case, the family patriarch kills his family before turning the weapon on himself. The reasons behind these horrific acts remain elusive, with the FBI’s broader investigation sidelined until Agent Lee Harker, portrayed by Maika Monroe, takes the lead. Harker, an introverted FBI agent with a “near psychic” ability to interpret the cryptic letters found at each crime scene, is tasked with uncovering the identity and motive of the entity playing God with innocent families.

Director Osgood Perkins tackles this material with a clinical detachment reminiscent of David Fincher’s style. However, lacking Fincher’s characteristic bone-dry, nihilistic humor, Perkins’ effort can feel like a mere exercise in maintaining a grim atmosphere. The surface-level similarities to “The Silence of the Lambs” don’t help, either. Despite its supernatural twists, “Longlegs” struggles to rise above these inevitable comparisons. The film aims for a blend of over-the-top ghoulishness and bleak dread akin to Stephen King’s best works, but these attempts feel like unnecessary additions to an already perfected formula.

Take the character of Lee, who immediately comes across as a replica of Clarice Starling. Lee is a rookie FBI agent navigating a male-dominated workplace, becoming the primary investigator of a baffling murder spree. Much like “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Longlegs” tells the story from her perspective, delving into her increasing eagerness to catch the killer as she confronts deep-seated past traumas. However, this is where Monroe’s portrayal falters. In the comparison between “Longlegs” and “The Silence of the Lambs,” Monroe’s depiction of a trauma-repressing character loses depth, transforming Lee into a passive, blank slate with little interior life beyond her professional duties.

Source: Variety