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Fantastic Fest ‘18 Review: “THE PERFECTION” gives us body horror with a smirk

Monday, September 24, 2018 | Review

By DEIRDRE CRIMMINS

Starring Allison Williams, Logan Browning, Steven Weber
Directed by Richard Shepard
Written by Eric C. Charmelo, Richard Shepard, & Nicole Snyder

We horror fans generally know what to expect from a horror film. We know that those sorority sisters will not make it through the night. We know that unless you double tap, that “dead’ serial killer isn’t really dead. We know that messing around with Ouija boards and stealing from witches are both terrible decisions and there are definitely painful consequences. In other words, we often know what will happen next in a film and yet we still enjoy the good ones all the same. Though there are those borderline psychic cinephiles who can predict the unpredictable, the rest of us will enjoy watching THE PERFECTION without a clue as to what will happen next.

THE PERFECTION starts with a death. Charlotte’s mother passes away after a long convalescence that derailed Charlotte’s (Allison Williams) whole future. It’s not that she did not love her mother, but taking care of her meant abandoning her promising cello studies just before she launched what would have been her life-long career and passion.

But her mother’s death has freed her. Charlotte leaves Minnesota for Shanghai to reunite with her cello mentor, Anton (Steven Weber), and meet the woman who has all the fame and glory that Charlotte was never able to have. Lizzie (Logan Browning) was just starting the at the Backoff academy as Charlotte left, and is now the academy’s star graduate. Lizzie the protege now graces billboards and music charts, and it would be understandable if her encounter with Charlotte generated some tension.

The women meet at a reception for the next generation for Backoff students. Charlotte and Lizzie will be judging the applicants, and get to know each other throughout the night too. It could have easily been a combative, jealous encounter, but the mutual admiration they have for one another supersedes that. The women are in awe of one another, and this deep respect morphs into sexual tension. Might this go better than they could have ever hoped?

From Shanghai Lizzie and Charlotte set out to explore the countryside on a rough bus trip together. The fun and flirting continues, up to the point where Lizzie gets violently ill. She has the cold sweats and is projectile vomiting, but out in the middle of nowhere, without either of them speaking the language. The weight of the situation hits Lizzie all at once, and Charlotte struggles to keep her from panicking and scaring the rest of the bus. Could this possibly be an outbreak, related to the man who vomited at the Backoff gala in the city?

Here is where THE PERFECTION has its fun. The film spends a good chunk of its energy into teasing the audience and toying with their expectations. It adds in details that may or may not come back into factor into the plot, and knows that we are paying close attention to it all.
THE PERFECTION also has an unconventional and playful story structure. Title cards lead us through the chapters in the film, but the actual mechanics of these markers go far beyond merely signposts.

THE PERFECTION’s playfulness and body horror anchor an uncommon film into some incredibly entertaining waters. A strong stomach and good humor will be rewarded kindly by this one.

Deirdre is a Chicago-based film critic and life-long horror fan. In addition to writing for RUE MORGUE, she also contributes to BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH., FILM THRILLS, and HIGH DEF DIGEST. She's got two black cats and wrote her Master's thesis on George Romero.