Photograph: Neon
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5 out of 5 stars

Nicolas Cage is a living nightmare in the most chilling supernatural horror since ‘Hereditary’

Phil de Semlyen

Time Out says

He had Psycho’s Anthony Perkins for a dad and an appearance as a young Norman Bates in Psycho II under his belt by the age of nine, but it’s probably still a reach to say that Osgood Perkins was born to make horror films. But it’s definitely our gain that his career choice has led him to this, the full-body, mind-violating horror experience of the year to date. 

With Nicolas Cage as both its producer and the deeply unsettling serial killer of the title, Longlegs is a work of chilling brilliance that should electrify genre fans for years to come. 

Cage has star billing but It Follows’ Maika Monroe is the film’s key figure. And she’s terrific again as Lee Harker, an FBI agent in Clinton-era America who has seemingly telepathic instincts, minimal people skills and a religious nut mum (Alicia Witt). Somewhere out there in the wintry burbs and backwaters of the Pacific Northwest, a serial killer is leaving a trail of slaughtered families and occult iconography in his wake, despite never even entering their homes. Harker’s sixth sense may just crack a case that’s dumbfounded her more experienced colleagues. 

Like Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs, Monroe’s Fed is a young woman who struggles to be taken seriously in a man’s world – a bureau headed up by Blair Underwood’s gruff bureau chief, Agent Carter. During one awkward encounter with Carter’s wife and young daughter, her body language is a silent scream of discomfort. Longlegs does not need its heroine to be likeable, only dogged.

That first breath of air outside the cinema will feel especially fresh

The touchpoints are obvious: the procedural elegance of The Silence of the Lambs; the psychic chill of Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone; the fisheyed disquiet of The Shining; the knock-knock-knock relentlessness of The Night of the Hunter. And if Agent Carter’s name itself turned out to be a callback to the creator of The X-Files, that wouldn’t be a surprise in a supernatural-tinged FBI thriller where the truth is definitely out there, you’re just not sure you want to bump into it.

But it’s what Longlegs does with its influences that counts. It’s artfully shot, the aspect ratio tightening claustrophobically as it flashes back to the 1970s. But Perkins’s script also sprinkles in sudden shocks, deeply macabre moments and slashes of dark humour to generate a deep unease all of its own.  

And Cage? Longlegs provides one or two of the Cagiest moments of a (relatively) reined-up career renaissance, without ever going too far. For the most part, his unseen presence hangs over the film like an evil miasma. That first breath of air outside the cinema will feel especially fresh after this one.

In cinemas worldwide Jul 12.  

Cast and crew

  • Director:Oz Perkins
  • Screenwriter:Oz Perkins
  • Cast:
    • Blair Underwood
    • Maika Monroe
    • Alicia Witt
    • Lauren Acala
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