“Greta” is the kind of suspenseful mystery that reminds us of so many other films in that genre because human nature is so universal, especially in the blackest parts of our souls. And because it’s not the most original story. But this mean little thriller likes to have fun.
It’s like an upscale midnight-movie unafraid to borrow brutal personal obsession (like in “Fatal Attraction”) or to inject odd noises within a house that eat away at you (like in “Pacific Heights”) and so many more.
I think the time period of those two films is relevant considering that writer-director Neil Jordan goes back 25 or so years to his best works like “The Crying Game” and “Interview With the Vampire,” back when he didn’t revel so much in fear and dread as he does here.
Add in a dash of Brian De Palma inspiration but without the style, and you have “Greta,” which has its moments of being classy schlock.
It’s upscale horror in having its key roles played by French actress and Oscar-nominee Isabelle Huppert, who at 65 has never been busier (or better, when it comes to playing ruthless), and young Chloe Grace Moretz, who has gone from the little tough girl in “Kick-Ass” to playing the innocent.
It’s creepy, and it’s amusing, and it’s kind of interesting to think about its ideas on loneliness. Like how having too much isolation can lead a person to think up ways to bring someone into their lives in the most deviant of ways.
Usually these movies feature one that-would-never-happen moment after another, but the only one in “Greta” happens at the beginning: A young woman on the subway in New York City finds a left-behind purse and decides to return it to its owner.
Not likely in New York, and oh yeah, no good deed goes unpunished.
Frances (Moretz as a young woman trying to make it in the big city and morose after the death of her mother) locates Greta, a lonely widow whose only daughter is never around but who sees in Frances a friend who could use maternal affection.
Yes, there are “mommy issues” running rampant here, and they become close, much to the dismay of Frances’ rich-girl roommate, Erica (played superbly by Maika Monroe with a wild-child in yoga-pants wink of the eye).
But it’s rather early in the film that Frances finds Greta is not what she seems to be, so we all fear what Greta is capable of for most of the movie.
“Greta” is a stalker-from-hell movie, and our antagonist knows what she can do to legally harass little Frances — and when she can take things a little further, and then a whole lot further.
Huppert is exceptional at playing mentally ill and violent, like seeing her dance a gleeful jig when she’s able to injure someone who gets in her path in a particularly satisfying manner.
Moretz is equally committed as the young woman at her wit’s end, although her role is not as colorful and by far the most predictable.
These may not sound like the strong-women roles you’ve heard actresses clamoring for in Hollywood in recent years, but there is certainly empowerment that happens here in multiple directions all the way to a whacked-out conclusion.
The movie is lacking in shock-value moments that you don’t see coming. OK, maybe one big, fat one, pun certainly intended.
But the others are obvious because if I see them coming, I know that means everyone sees them coming.
“Greta” is dangerous if you get to know her, but watching her from a distance for a couple of hours offers dark fun.