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MY GOD this movie was agonizingly tense. From the first scene, they just gripped your nerves, and refuse to let go even during the moments of ease. There might be a break in the on-screen tension, but you are ever aware of its lingering presence.
I originally tried to do a reaction/review on YouTube, but Netflix, the fuckers, blocked it for copyright infringement. To give you an idea about how ridiculous that is, the franchise holders of Friday the 13th, didn't give me a hard time about the copyright infringement. So Netflix have become Micky Mouse corporatists, and can pretty much go fuck themselves. If Amazon wasn't worse, I'd just pick up an account there. Might go back to Shudder.
Back to the actual review, but before we begin, fucking HUGE trigger warning. I almost turned the movie off at one point, because I thought it was going full blown Clockwork Orange, and while it did remain tasteful, almost lost me for being rapey...
I realized that this movie deserved a proper written review 'post-facto', as my reactions just didn't capture exactly how good this movie is. At first, the plot seems simple and straight forward. A cellist virtuoso abandons her career to take care of her dying mother. She then get's replaced and appears to want revenge. From there, the cellist who replaced her falls in love with her, and it looks like it's turning into this weird reverse Munchhausen, where her revenge plot turns into this obsession with controlling the new cellist. Then it dives down the rabbit hole. While the plot is extremely convoluted, it works to explain everything to the audience in reasonable ways.
The acting is just fantastic! I mean some of the scenes are gripping with emotion. The female lead has an eye twitch that is subtle and perfect. Then there's these scenes where the female lead (Charlotte) is intentionally using bad acting as a form of expressing the dichotomy of her character, and when she's trying to manipulate the other lead actress (Lizzie). It's just an emotional roller-coaster that gets its hooks in and won't let go.
Of course the atmosphere is perfect, and the cinematography is spell binding, and even better the soundtrack is entrancing. It truly was close to perfection for thriller horror.
I didn't really see the plot twist coming, because I feel like I preferred the movie I had in my mind. In my mind, this wasn't a movie about revenge, it was about projecting the stress and abuse of being driven to perfection onto another individual. In my mind, the female lead abandoned her art and perfection to care for her mother. Having wasted her career, Charlotte needed someone new to care for, and when her mortal enemy Lizzie fell in love with her, she replaced her mother, and began to intentionally make Lizzie sick so she could 'take care' of her, while simultaneously robbing her of her career. I saw almost a modern version of American Psycho, and for me the concept was so amazing, I just wouldn't let it go, and missed the obvious plot.
Eventually, it becomes obvious that the guy who trained the two cellists was a pedophile, and sexually abused them during their time at his academy. The female lead escaped that when she was called away to care for her mother. Over time and through therapy, Charlotte was willing to admit to herself the abuse that she underwent. Lizzie went on to be world celebrated, and simply refused to accept her abuse, and though she falls in love with Charlotte, she won't let her teacher's control of her go.
So, on a vacation for the two of them, Charlotte poisons Lizzie, manipulates her into hallucinating enough to chop of her own hand, thus robbing Lizzie of her talent and career. When Lizzie returns to her teacher, sans hand, he spurns her. Lizzie realizes the sexual abuse was never about love, it was about controlling her and her talent.
The revenge plot you thought was about Charlotte killing Lizzie, actually turns out to be about waking Lizzie up... here's my biggest problem with this. Then Lizzie tells Charlotte she's been in love with her since she was nine years old. When they formulate a relationship, through time and care, Charlotte could have freed Lizzie in a loving way that respects how much she loved her. Instead, Charlotte manipulates and abuses Lizzie, and gets her to cut off her hand. Sure this works, and yeah it's faster, but it kinda betrays the integrity of Charlotte's mission to free this girl who fell in love with her, who she knows suffered the same mental and sexual abuse.
I'm not going to ruin the ending, I want you to watch this. I absolutely recommend this to general horror audiences. As a thriller horror, it might not be good for hardcore horror heads.