“Perpetrator” is not your typical horror film. For most, an 18th birthday is a time for celebration. But for Jonny, portrayed by Kiah McKirnan, turning 18 is a life-altering event. She undergoes a mysterious transformation, acquiring unique abilities like face-changing and mimicry. These changes are triggered by a peculiar birthday cake from her enigmatic Aunt Hildie, played by Alicia Silverstone.
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But Jonny’s story is more than just personal transformation. The film also tackles a local crisis— the mysterious disappearance of teenage girls. After moving in with Aunt Hildie, Jonny starts at a new school and quickly learns about these alarming kidnappings. Simultaneously, she battles unsettling physical changes like constant nosebleeds.
Despite her struggles, Jonny decides to solve the mystery of the vanished girls. Her newfound abilities, she believes, can help her unmask the individual behind these abductions. Although the list of suspects isn’t long, including Kirk, the dubious son of a local cop, and Principal Burke with his creepy school games, the perpetrator’s identity isn’t too hard to guess.
The film’s director, Jennifer Reeder, seems less concerned with resolving the mystery and more focused on unnerving the audience. Drawing inspiration from directors like David Cronenberg and David Lynch, she incorporates elements of body horror and unsettling scenes that can be jarring. As such, don’t expect a straightforward narrative.
While the film may frustrate those looking for clear answers, it may also thrill viewers who relish its bizarre and unsettling nature. It’s not just a random assortment of weird scenes; there’s depth to the strangeness, addressing themes like puberty, feminine strength, and victim-blaming, albeit subtly.
The film’s impact is also heightened by its strong performances, particularly Alicia Silverstone’s portrayal of Aunt Hildie. A character shrouded in mystery, she could be a centuries-old witch. Silverstone, long pigeonholed in mediocre romantic comedies, demonstrates her significant talent here, showing a darker, more complex side.
“Perpetrator” stands out on the Shudder streaming platform, thanks to its inventive direction, dark humor, and eye-catching cinematography by Sevdije Kastrati. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, given its abstract storytelling and gore, but for the right audience, it’s compelling viewing.
This film has a particular appeal for young women, offering a heroine who confronts her challenges head-on. It also caters to fans of unconventional cinema, blending a somewhat campy tone with disturbing imagery. However, those seeking a conventional horror story might find it lacking in genuine scares and straightforward plotting.
In summary, if you’re the target audience for this film, it’s well worth your time. “Perpetrator” is not just another generic horror movie; it brings a refreshing diversity to the genre. Director Jennifer Reeder continues to intrigue with her unique style, blending black humor with thought-provoking and sometimes disgusting elements, ensuring she remains a force to reckon with in filmmaking.