Film column – Perpetrator

DIRECTED by Jennifer Reeder, Perpetrator, which is new to Shudder, is a supernatural thriller that is deliciously unconventional and downright surreal.

Taking on the feel and style of the work of cinematic masters David Lynch and Dario Argento, it tells the story of Jonquin ‘Jonny’ Baptiste (Kiah McKirnan), a reckless teen sent to live with her estranged aunt Hildie (Alicia Silverstone).

Brimmimg over with black humour and an eccentric plot that is as gruesome as it is off-the-wall, it sees our young leading lady experience a radical metamorphosis on her 18th birthday that redefines her called “forevering”.

With a new heightened sense of super empathy, Jonny taps into the pain and hurting of those around her to the point  that she can shape-shift into their faces.

When several teen girls go missing at her new school, she goes after the perpetrator using her new super powers.

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A feral teenage lesbian horror noir, Perpetrator is weird, wacky, and very entertaining. A film that comes across like an existential study on puberty and women’s place in society, it combines elements of movies such as Mulholland Drive, Clueless, Existenz, and Donnie Darko.

Alicia Silverstone is a joy in the role of the witchy and sophisticated aunt. She brings an element of high camp and decadence to proceedings that is hard to resist.

There’s a gleam in Silverstone’s eye throughout, clearly loving every minute of hamming it up as the tantalising Panto-esque matron in every scene. “I’ve been buried alive twice,” she divulges with contorted zeal at one point.

But there’s plenty of other twisted oddballs in Reeder’s trippy thriller to eat up with relish. The plastic-surgery obsessed nurse and the over-enthusiastic school principal who always expects the worst, who exuberantly drills his students on how to survive a school shooter situation by bursting into classrooms with his water gun, give proceedings a ludicrous nightmarish quality.

Overall, you’ll either love it or hate it, but there’s no denying its whipsmart allure.