Everyone needs a friend….and Chloë Grace Moretz finds one that is sure to send chills down your spine in Greta, and it makes for a freakishly scary watch.
A sweet, naïve young woman trying to make it on her own in New York City, Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) doesn’t think twice about returning the handbag she finds on the subway to its rightful owner. That owner is Greta (Isabelle Huppert), an eccentric French piano teacher with a love for classical music and an aching loneliness. Having recently lost her mother, Frances quickly grows closer to widowed Greta. The two become fast friends — but Greta’s maternal charms begin to dissolve and grow increasingly disturbing as Frances discovers that nothing in Greta’s life is what it seems.
Director Neil Jordan is no stranger to the idea of horror and his vast filmography features an assortment of horror classics such as Interview with the Vampire and The Company of Wolves, but here the director takes a real sharp turn with Greta and constructs a dark and sinister thriller filled with plenty of psychological trauma. With its Hitchcockian styling, Greta has a frightening pace and presents some very intense moments as our lead character Francis (Chloë Grace Moretz) falls under the spell of the lonely Greta (Isabelle Huppert). As things get rolling and Greta’s alarming obsessions boil to the surface, Jordan really ramps up the tension and you begin to start recoiling in your seat with the scares that the director throws your way.
Jordan builds Greta as a character piece based around the perspective of three protagonists and frames his story from the perspective of Chloë Grace Moretz….and it’s a character and a narrative unlike anything the young actress has ever played before. Seemingly normal and average in every way Moretz’s Francis is essentially a good person who has been through a tragedy and is trying to do good in the world. She soon befriends Greta, and while the relationship is amiable at first things soon take a twisted turn and Francis is suddenly introduced to Greta’s disturbing true character with great viciousness. As a protagonist, Moretz really reveals herself in the role and her emotions really sink into the audience. As the minutes tick by the terror tightens around our central protagonist and Moretz gives a thoroughly believable performance of entrapment and panic as the horrors fall in around her.
Joining Moretz in the film is celebrated French actress Isabelle Huppert as the titular character, a painfully lonely woman who slowly draws Francis into her life before revealing her all to darker intentions. Regarded as one of the world’s leading actresses, Huppert brings a phenomenal presence to the role that changes in a heartbeat. While she first reveals herself as sweet and charming, in the next beat of a scene a sinister icy glare appears across her face and this expressionless madness is staring back at you. Unstable and extremely unnerving, there’s almost this otherworldly evil quality to Huppert’s Greta and when she ‘adopts’ Francis as her own ‘child’, her maniacal world is on full display. The tension never stops mounting with Huppert’s performance and Greta’s insanity is sure to provide you with plenty of nightmares.
Finally Maika Monroe completes Greta’s trinity as Francis’ party girl roommate and best friend Erica and she provides a sort of outside overview to the film’s narrative. While not a crucial part of the Greta/Francis relationship, Monroe’s Erica provides a different perspective to this film’s twisting relationship and she’s the one who is constantly checking Francis on her naivety. She’s the character who is saying ‘stay away from this mad woman’, and her sensible assertiveness really sends a jolt to the audience about the growing dangers that Greta gives to our heroine. Along with her stance as the film’s most proactive character, Monroe also brings a great sense of energy to her role and provides some lighthearted relief from the thrills with plenty of great comedic quips.
As a viewing experience, Greta absolutely keeps you on the edge of your seat and this is one thriller that doesn’t hold back the horrors. When Greta’s frightening nature does finally reach the surface, the film’s experience becomes one of intense dread as you never know what’s going to happen next, and Jordan absolutely plays all of it up here. Good thrillers rely on a balance of tension, and the director gives the film a snappish quality as each of our characters actions become more extreme in their delivery….and there are certainly moments that will make you squirm. It’s been a while since I can remember a film that made such an impact on its audience that you can hear those around you in the audience jump and scream next to you as they recoil at the horrors that are presented up on screen and Greta definitely creates that reaction within its audience in the gnarliest way possible.
Wound tight and coiled with explosive energy, Greta is one film that seriously gets under your skin and stays there. With it’s twisted narrative and solid performances from its lead characters it is sure to keep you on edge the whole time and will fill you with fear as only the best horrors can.
Image: Universal Pictures