The quick, tidy "Greta" is a disappointment from Neil Jordan, but Isabelle Huppert, who’s always been brilliant at playing women with ice in their veins, tackles the title role with an eerie, terrifying stillness. Rating: 2 stars out of 4
With one exception, everything about Neil Jordan’s quick, tidy horror film “Greta” is disappointingly mundane. Its heroine, Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz), is the sort of absurdly innocent young woman who trustingly enters the home of an oversharing Manhattan stranger, cultivates a friendship with said stranger despite distractingly strong readings on the craziness meter, and later, when things are clearly deeply off the rails, goes back to that home — by herself — because she’s worried about the safety of a dog. The fate of saintly, clueless Frances — who doesn’t listen to her much-smarter roommate (Maika Monroe, who speaks for all of us when she states, early in the movie, “This is getting weird”) — is easy to predict but harder to care about.
But oh, that exception. Isabelle Huppert plays the title character; the mysterious woman who meets Frances after the latter returns an elegant handbag Greta left on the subway. Huppert, who’s always been brilliant at playing women with ice in their veins (obviously Frances never saw “The Piano Teacher,” or she’d have bolted at the first sight of her), plays Greta with an eerie, terrifying stillness; something inside this woman has disappeared, leaving only a cold, quiet space. Though the movie soon disintegrates into typical horror-movie silliness (Greta, it turns out, can control elevators! And do horrifying things involving severed digits!), Huppert’s performance never goes over the top; she’s always, even in the depths of Greta’s madness, perfectly controlled — which makes the character all the scarier.
“Greta” is a disappointment from Jordan, who’s made far better movies (“The Crying Game,” “The End of the Affair” and, more recently, the elegant vampire film “Byzantium”), but Huppert seizes hold of the film and chills it, in a way that’s both shiver-inducing and bracing.
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★★ “Greta,” with Isabelle Huppert, Chloë Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea. Directed by Neil Jordan, from a screenplay by Ray Wright and Jordan. 98 minutes. Rated R for some violence and disturbing images. Opens March 1 at multiple theaters.