Humor and terror are a hard mix, but done masterfully the film audience really takes part in the campy fun. This was my experience in viewing “Greta”. One middle-aged man yelled at the screen, “ Don’t be stupid. Don’t go down there,” and a boy to my far left shouted out directions to our frantic, trapped protagonist: “ Pick up the rolling-pin!”. I was laughing out loud one second and grimacing the next.
“Greta” does have a slow build-up, but some of the reason for this is due to the television trailers that reveal too much. Still there are plenty of surprises. There are numerous traditional horror tropes and routines: severed fingers, hidden rooms, locked toy chests, drug laden syringes, and dead bodies buried in the cellar. Add stalking, manic outbursts, mental asylum history, and cretin private detectives, and subway chases to ramp up the narrative arc, and one will not glance away.
The acting is superb. Isabelle Huppert plays the lonely, revengeful Greta. Her Chanel suits and French cooking prowess, her musicality at the piano keep us interested. Greta’s trench coat chic and ballet steps leave us more surprised at her gum spitting than her lye-sprinkling. Huppert is having more fun than she did in her early “ The Lacemaker” film, and we are enjoying her.
Irish Director Neil Jordan of “The Crying Game” fame uses the New York setting to great advantage. The restaurants, the subway, the alleys, and off-beat residences ground us in the life of the city.
The two TriBeCa roomies are perfectly cast, too. Maika Monroe plays Erica, the city girl who admonishes naive Francis McCullen ( Chloë Grace Moretz ) that when you find a purse left on the subway, you don’t return it. You call the bomb squad. Erica has all the best lines and the most moxie. The loft is a gift from Erica’s father. Her answer to most problems is a colonic spa day! Moretz’s heart-shaped face and big eyes make Frankie, who just lost her mother, a vessel to victimize. Greta takes her to atmospheric sanctuaries to light candles. She tells Frankie that her husband played the church organ here. Her only daughter is in Paris. Loneliness haunts her, so Frankie helps her pick out a rescue dog.
There is a terrific elevator scene with drug induced closing walls and up and down vehicle thrills. The musical score makes the film, beginning and ending with “ Where are you? Where have you been without me? I thought you cared about me…” and ending with the same Frank Sinatra song. The award-winning Javier Navarrete uses classical music, lullabies, and dance rhythms to underscore Ray Wright and Neil Jordan’s modern-gothic tale. The refrain “ Where is my happy ending ?” may just set a sequel in place for next Halloween.