dir: Carlo Mirabella-Davis
This film. Was deeply disturbing. To watch. And harrowing, too!
I warn you now, it’s not for the squeamish, oh no.
Haley Bennett, who probably to her professional detriment looks a lot like Jennifer Lawrence, puts in a performance for the ages in this gutting, in many senses of the word, character study.
In the beginning she is the very image of the perfect 1950s Stepford wife so we already know something terrible is going to happen (it’s not set in the 50s). Her perfect coiffure, her perfect clothing, the overly fussy nature of that multi-million dollar house that overlooks the Hudson River, the perfect hunky husband with his mega-wealthy parents, it’s like, what do you get the woman that seemingly has everything?
Well, you give her a crippling compulsion to eat stuff that is inedible. I’m not talking McDonalds or the fried chicken in bain maries at roadside truck stops.
No, Hunter, as she is known, swallows things. At first, or at least the first thing we see her swallow, is a marble. You’d think, well, that’s a bad idea.
And you would be right. In the times leading up to this, we see Hunter being belittled, minimised, mocked and generally disregarded. It’s not loudly dramatic, it’s just in virtually everything her parents-in-law do and say, and her husband’s jerky self-centredness. We get the strong sense that Hunter is striving mightily to be the perfect wife that these rich bastards demand, but that level of struggle is too much for everyone in general, and not just her.
Lest you think this is going to be anything like the Maggie Gyllenhaal flick from ages ago called Secretary, about a woman who compulsively self-mutilates until she gets her happily ever after in a sadomasochistic relationship with James fucking Spader, it’s nothing like that. No, Hunter’s compulsion to mutilate her insides is not played for sexy laughs at all.
It’s taken very seriously, and it’s also not meant to be a coincidence that this compulsion is escalating just as Hunter finds she is pregnant.
This is a very discrete kind of body horror. Generally in horror flicks we’re worried on behalf of characters (if we care about them at all, which is not a given) that are threatened with torment or death because we either feel for them or imagine ourselves in their place. If this is a kind of horror flick, which I’m not completely convinced it falls into the category of, the horror perhaps is imagining either what these increasingly dangerous objects are doing to her insides, or imagine how it would feel if it was happening to us.