Queen of Earth Review: Horror in the Mind

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It Follows had its moments of genuine thrills, but Queen of Earth is the closest we’ve come to true horror in cinema all year.

The film opens with Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) violently breaking down in a close-up shot to her boyfriend ending their relationship. Moss instantly settles us in for a performance that, given the chance and an open-minded audience to indie fare, would be one for the ages. Physically, it points to a difficult trip to come over the next 90 minutes.

After her breakup, Catherine goes to her best friend Ginny’s (Katherine Waterson) lake house. Also dealing with the death of her father, caused by what the film vaguely points to be suicide, Catherine is entirely broken. Her strained friendship with Ginny, as well as Ginny’s own new flame Rich (Patrick Fugit), only make her feel more alone.

The secluded setting and use of its main characters invokes the horror of The Shining. Moss is playing a role very similar to Jack Nicholson’s in Stanley Kubrick’s terror-inducing masterpiece, and she uses every millisecond of her screentime to make us believe her psychological breakdown.

Aesthetically, Queen of Earth is a horror film, even though its script plays it like a psychological horror. Nothing truly terrifying in the modern horror film sense ever happens in the movie But Ginny watching her friend, someone she’s known for years deteriorate to the point of unpredictability becomes horrific.

Unfortunately, for all the work the film does building tension and using its every resource, the ending comes up short. The end result to the madness is essentially nothing, with no real statement made about anything the film seemingly meant to be discussing. The final moments of Queen of Earth is actually one of the great cinematic tragedies of the decade, as they fail to provide any purpose to what was previously a perfect marriage of art and tension.

It doesn’t quite ruin the movie, as the whole picture is more than worthwhile and you never really realize the filmmakers’ folly until the credits roll. Moss, coming off of seven seasons of Mad Men, proves herself worthy of superstardom. This a meaty role that she earns every second of. Even if the film itself isn’t ready to commit to an idea, at least we got an actor more committed to her work than we’ve seen all year. Too bad she’ll likely never see any awards attention for it. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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