I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers that overlap ever so slightly into horror territory, so naturally, Greta has been sat in my watchlist for a while. With the disturbingly vague synopsis of “kind young woman befriends a lonely old widow, then things turn bad”, it seemed to be one of those films that would either be pretty good or hilariously bad, so I figured either way it would probably be worth watching.
Greta stars Chloë Grace Moretz as Frances McCullen, a young and naïve resident of New York who finds a bag on the subway. After discovering that the lost and found is closed, and checking inside the bag for some identification, she decides to take the bag across town to its owner, Greta (Isabelle Huppert).
The events that follow are both delightfully disturbingly and only ever-so-slightly unrealistic. There is a little gore, some psychological torture, and very, very unwell woman living out her very unpleasant delusional fantasies. Narratively speaking, it’s more than a little far-fetched, and a number of plot points were stretches of the truth that are actually potentially harmful – including being told by the movie police that threatening behaviours aren’t worth reporting unless you’ve been harmed in some way (that’s obviously not true, so don’t listen to the fake police, please).
When you can suspend your disbelief, Greta is a deeply unsettling film. Despite myself, I became far more invested than I’d suspected I would, and genuinely enjoyed watching the film’s events unfold, as unpleasant as they were.
What carries the film is an excellent performance by Huppert, who manages to perfectly capture the danger of the mentally unstable character she portrays, eliciting both sympathy and revulsion all at once. Moretz’s performance was mostly sound, although there were a number of occasions where she was hammier than a deli counter, particularly towards the film’s climax.
With that said, Greta does a far better job of building tension than many of its contemporaries. The titular villain is so deviously conniving and impossibly clever that it’s almost hard to believe that there’s ever a way the film could end happily, and that uncertainty stokes the viewer’s emotional involvement far beyond your expectations of a B-movie with such a transparent plot.
There’s not a whole lot more to say, really: Greta is an odd little film, but it’s an entertaining one. It’s a fairly novel retreading of well-worn horror/thriller ground, but it’s carried off well by its cast, and it delivers a few horrific twists and turns that keep it exciting throughout. It might not be particularly innovative, but it will most likely keep you on the edge of your seat, and really, that should be enough.
Summary: An odd little B-movie featuring two A-listers and a whole mess of horror tropes, this psychological thriller is packed with tension and twisted thrills. Its main draw comes from the outlandish realism of its titular antagonist – after all, any one of us could have a Greta living next door.
Highlights: Huppert’s initially sympathetic turn as Greta quickly turns unpleasant before she reveals the sadistic depths of her insanity is by far the best aspect of the film.