Horror is a relatively adaptable genre, as it can range from super serious to satirical to full-on comedy, with each working as well as the last if put in the right hands. But when someone without relevant experience decides to take on horror, things can go off the rails pretty quickly.
That’s the case with Greta, which is co-written and directed by Academy Award winner Neil Jordan with all of the care of first-year film student. In it, a young woman named Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) is living your standard early-20s life in New York City, working as a waitress and rooming with her college friend Erica (Maika Monroe). While riding the subway one day, she happens upon a lost purse that belongs to an older woman named Greta (Isabelle Huppert).
Having recently lost her mother and feeling somewhat adrift in the big city, Frances soon takes a shine to Greta, spending an increasing amount of time with her over the objections of Erica. It’s only when Greta starts contacting her incessantly that Frances decides to dial things back, a decision that does not sit well with Greta.
Almost every step of the way, it feels as if Jordan has no idea how to tell his own story. There is very little mystery to the plot and, once the film moves in that direction, the scariness pales in comparison to any halfway decent horror in recent memory. Jordan removes any trace of fear by using stereotypical creepy music with such benign scenes as Greta looking at Frances’ Facebook page, as if the mere fact of being curious about a new person in your life is horrifying.
Despite a relatively short running time of 98 minutes, the film moves at a plodding pace, with Jordan and co-writer Ray Wright taking their sweet time to get to the meat of the film. Even when they do start to hint at Greta’s nefarious plot, they so clumsily execute the scenes that it comes off as laughable. Trite dialogue and predictable twists do nothing to bolster the proceedings.
The now 22-year-old Moretz, who’s been a working actress since she was 7, seems to be going through some growing pains in choosing the right projects to complement her talent. Huppert, nominated for her first Oscar in 2017, does not demonstrate her ability well, either. The most memorable performance is turned in by Monroe, who, after appearing in It Follows and The Guest, knows her way around the horror movie genre.
It’s difficult to tell why Greta was made in the first place, as it offers nothing new for the genre and does little to showcase the fine actors who were convinced to be in it. Save your money and wait for Jordan Peele’s Us later this month.