Horror

‘The Perfection’: A Love Letter to Lesbian Horror


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‘The Perfection’ is good.

The Perfection

The Perfection is a film that likes to toy with its audience. It isn’t playing around when it comes to the stellar romance between the two female leads, however. It is, in my humble opinion, LGBTQ+ representation done right within the genre. In fact, it’s the epitome of what I, personally, would love to see more of in queer horror. Much as the film itself is a love letter to killer lesbians, this piece is my love letter to The Perfection.

I will be the first to admit that I am far from unbiased in my love for this particular title. It checks a lot of boxes for me. I’m a sucker for psychological horror, body horror, and female-driven revenge stories. Some of its other offerings I wasn’t even aware I needed prior to my first screening. A prime example of this is the deep eroticism of orchestral duets used as cinematic foreplay. To watch Lizzie (Logan Browning) and Charlotte (Allison Williams) play their first song together is to become truly lost in their chemistry.

Also Read: “It’s Art That Kills Us”: Bridging Themes in THE PERFECTION and EDDIE THE SLEEPWALKING CANNIBAL

It’s rare for me to actively root for any couple in a horror movie; that’s not why I’m watching. I am what you could call a cynic, at heart. Thanks to the amazing performances of the lead actresses, I was invested in this relationship from their first conversation — even as they are still being set up as potential rivals.

Is there a hint of mockery in Charlotte’s fangirling? Does Lizzie find the return of Bachoff Academy’s former star pupil to be threatening? How are the compliments coming so naturally to both of them? How genuine are they? This is the elegant dance that first entices the imagination of the viewer, while also hinting at sparks between them. Then, the duet.

To see the pair fall into bed together brought so much relief. Lesbian romances, really any queer romances, are so often teased or alluded to without ever being outright shown on screen.

The Perfection paired these two together even before the conclusion of its first act. I was astounded, and half in love already. I dared not hope for a happy end to the affair. But to have seen the affair at all felt like enough at the moment. I thought it would be enough.

Then, the mind games started.

The opening act had all the stage dressing of a virus story, with the set-up that Lizzie will be sick in a foreign country. There are hints that not all is as it seems, but it isn’t until the film rewinds itself that we see just how deeply we’ve been duped. We’re not even in the right subgenre. Lizzie isn’t sick at all, she’s been poisoned and manipulated by Charlotte into thinking there are bugs under her skin.

Also Read: Fantastic Fest 2018: THE PERFECTION Review – A Stylish, Well-Acted Misstep

The point of no return for the film is when Lizzie cuts off the part of herself that is the most important to her—her arm. That arm is everything to her. She is one of the world’s best cellists from one of the most prestigious academies. She has worked all her life for this gift. To see Charlotte strip this from her was to have a faltering faith in the film entirely. If there was one red herring stronger than the plague arc, it was the notion that Charlotte should be jealous of Lizzie.

I dreaded seeing that dynamic between them once I thought the bullet had already been dodged. I wanted to believe in the narrative to have another twist, but near the halfway point I simply didn’t. As movie goers we are trained to see powerful, talented women in constant competition with one another. Countless other movies have taught me that there is no room for romance in a situation where a rivalry might flourish between two females. It was not until midway through The Perfection I realized just how tired I had grown of that dynamic.

Even as the story continues to unfold, it portrays the two as increasingly at odds. Lizzie is pushed away from The Academy, losing everything, causing her to snap. She steps into the role of aggressor, kidnapping Charlotte and bringing her to her former teachers for a violent revenge.

Also Read: Jordan Peele Tells Allison Williams to Get Out

My disappointment was mounting here. I literally had to pause the movie to come to terms with the fact that I had not ever, to my recollection, seen another lesbian couple in a horror film. When the film was released in 2018, I was still new to the community and representation wasn’t something I had sought out much specifically. I was still stunned to realize it hadn’t been there at all. For all intents and purposes, this was my first exposure to LGBTQ+ horror and I was devastated by the notion it could be so easily reduced to tired tropes.

So you can imagine my surprise — my delight, even—when the end was not as tragic as all that. The movie rewinds yet again to reveal its final trick.

We are taken back to the side of the road where Charlotte explains how she is trying to protect Lizzie from Anton (Steven Weber.) She is trying to cut the abusive hold of him and The Bachoff Academy by severing their only tie to Lizzie; her music. She pledges to be there for Lizzie, to do anything for her, and this staged kidnapping was nothing more than her keeping that promise. As their abusers torment the long-lost Charlotte, Lizzie spikes their drinks, gets them separated, and sets the bloody final act into motion with her lover.

While the word love is never explicitly used, it is well implied. I dare say it is better executed in this instance, even, than in a majority of straight romances we’re used to seeing in horror. This is seen in the delightful interactions of the couple, their music, their actions, each lingering glance. It shines through best, however, at the conclusion of their story.

Also Read: The Queer World of ‘Hellbent’

By the end of their schemes, both cellists have lost the ability to play their instrument. Each has lost the function of one hand. The movie ends with another performance by them, Lizzie doing the fingering while Charlotte saws relentlessly across the strings. Absolutely poetic. I am not exaggerating when I say I have never seen a more literal or impactful demonstration of the phrase “you complete me.”

The Perfection shows queer fans of this genre things we’ve long known, but so seldom get to see confirmed. Same sex couples can have great chemistry on screen in an allotted time. There can be good gay representation in a horror movie without the horror stemming from one’s sexuality. The community will accept queer antiheroes because not every LGBTQ+ character needs to be a perfect role model. The fact that we are given the chance to empathize and even root for the couple’s chaos is, to quote Charlotte, “something more than beautiful.”

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