The classic movie monsters of yesterday are simply not scary these days. Frankenstein and the Mummy have taken a backseat to torture-porn and gore flicks. These films may not be for everyone, but they are clearly the most popular current trend in modern horror film-making. But the most truly terrifying cinema is often based in reality. When a film presents troubling characters or situations that can occur in everyday life, we collectively shiver at how close real horror is to our front door. A perfect example of this is director Lynne Ramsay’s latest outing, “We Need To Talk About Kevin.”
Upon first glance, ‘Kevin’ appears to be a family drama with a strong emphasis on the mother-son relationship. The story plays out in a non-linear sequence, with inanimate objects used to convey opposite messages of a mother reaching her breaking point. But even with all of this excessive stimuli, a real story is there which is both heartbreaking and chilling. The power house cast features, Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly as the parents of the title character.
Even though we cannot avoid talking about,’Kevin’ this is most certainly Tilda Swinton’s movie. She owns every taut, chilling, and sometimes comedic scene. Audiences will be glued to each word, and gesture she puts on the screen, while feeling her every emotion. Swinton’s Eva is a mother with her hands full and from the get go we are presented with a family dynamic that appears normal from afar, but becomes increasingly manic from within. Eva has a great job, a wealthy existence, and a kind spouse. In reality however, she is practically by herself, dealing with a son with growing psychotic behavior. Sure, John C. Reilly’s Franklin is a loving husband but he is blind to his son’s increasingly odd demeanor. This places Swinton’s Eva into a classic horror film cliche, as the woman who has knowledge of impending doom but no one else seems to be listening.
The disturbing Kevin is played at three life stages by different actors. Each of the young thespians breathes uncomfortable life into this highly disturbed antagonist. Much of the film is spent with the Kevin of pre-adolescence played by the talented up and comer Jasper Newell. His relationship to Swinton’s matriarch is frighteningly realistic. The viewer is trapped with Swinton as she battles a troubled youth who appears to refuse to grow up, or take even the most reasonable order. The never ending cycle of abuse from boy Kevin causes Eva to become a cruel, spiteful woman. Therefore Swinton and Ramsay create a tone where the audience doesn’t know who to root for.
The older teenage Kevin is much more sinister, reinforcing this film as a true suburban tale of terror. Played by Ezra Miller, teenage Kevin is the monster we feared the child would grow up to be. Miller’s performance is downright haunting. His portrayal of a sociopath conjures up our worst memories, the likes of which rival a Jefferey Dahmer or the demonic teens begind the horrible tragedies of the Columbine High School shootings. Teen Kevin’s actions are cringe worthy at every turn, which caused many of my fellow audience members to writhe in their seats. And in a perfect world viewers would be put at ease with the title character having some type of catharsis and changing his ways, but that is right around the time when the true horror film kicks in. By that time it’s far too late for all parties both on the screen and in the real world to embrace a turnaround.
“We Need To Talk About Kevin,” is a dangerous film in the best sense of the word. The seamless blending of drama and horror kept me hanging on every word, waiting for the next action to unfold. Although I loved the film and was committed throughout, it was literally impossible to leave the theater with a smile on my face or a feeling of any kind of joy regarding resolution of the story.
“We Need To Talk About Kevin” is rated R, starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly, has a runtime of 112 minutes, and opens in theaters everywhere Friday, January 27th.
- Jay Rubin