The Perfection is a 2018 American psychological horror thriller film directed by Richard Shepard.
Charlotte Willmore is a talented young cellist who was forced to leave Bachoff, a prestigious music school in Boston, to care for her terminally ill mother. After her mother’s death years later, Charlotte reaches out to Anton, the head of the academy. She travels to Shanghai to join him, his wife Paloma, and teachers Geoffrey and Theis in selecting a new student. Charlotte befriends Lizzie, Anton’s star pupil who replaced Charlotte at Bachoff. After a night of clubbing, they return to Lizzie’s hotel room and have sex.
When Lizzie awakens with a hangover, Charlotte offers her some ibuprofen, which she takes with a shot of alcohol, and joins her on a trip through rural China. Boarding a bus after eating at a street food stall, Lizzie begins to feel progressively ill and takes more of Charlotte’s ibuprofen. As her condition worsens, she throws up maggots and spirals into a panic. Frightening the other passengers until the driver ejects her and Charlotte from the bus, stranding them in the countryside. Increasingly ill and paranoid, Lizzie sees bugs crawling inside her arm and eventually bursting out of her skin before Charlotte offers her a meat cleaver, and Lizzie hacks off her infected right hand.
It is revealed that Charlotte drugged Lizzie with medication prescribed to Charlotte’s late mother, which can induce hallucinations (especially when consumed with alcohol), stole the meat cleaver from the food stall, and manipulated Lizzie into cutting off her own hand.
Three weeks later, Anton and Paloma give their new student from China, Zhang Li, a tour of Bachoff and the “Chapel,” an acoustically perfect room where the academy’s best students perform. That night, Lizzie arrives unexpectedly, her right hand missing. She explains her recollection of events to Anton and Paloma, and that she was discovered unconscious on the side of the road with a makeshift tourniquet around her arm, keeping her alive. Lizzie is adamant that Charlotte orchestrated the incident out of jealousy. Anton, initially sympathetic, turns cold and informs Lizzie the next day that she must leave the academy. On her way out, she looks at the photos in the hall and smashes a framed picture of Charlotte.
Lizzie travels to Minneapolis to confront Charlotte in her home, having broken in, and overpowers her with a taser before returning to Bachoff with Charlotte bound in the trunk of her car. When Charlotte awakens, she is confronted by Anton and reveals why she orchestrated Lizzie’s dismemberment. The plot was spurred by Charlotte seeing a photo of Lizzie in a magazine with an eighth-note tattoo, a symbol for those indoctrinated into an elite group of students whom Anton and his peers sexually abuse as part of a sex cult.
Will there be further twists? Honestly, yes, this movie has so many. But I’m not sure it’s worth watching to find out what they are…
The Perfection starts off as an interesting story, you begin to believe it may be some kind of zombie movie. Then comes the first twist and I enjoyed the concept of a true female villain. But again, comes a further twist that changes the movie I was enjoying. This trend continues on several times. Every time you’re enjoying the plot, they scrap it and turn it into something else. I think they went through several much better storylines than the one they ended up with and would have rather seen those films play out instead.
It finally settles itself on a well-worn and trodden narrative of evil abusive white man vs abuse victims. I’m not saying this isn’t a valid narrative but honestly this is in everything. I’m so tired of being hammered over the head with this message. It’s not only once again not subtle but also only involves girls when boys are equally a target of sexual abuse.
Honestly, the whole story is convoluted as fuck. Charlotte cuts off Lizzie’s hand to free her from sexual abuse. Ok. Why didn’t she just kill Anton and end the entire cycle? Why go to so much effort when he was right there just living in his house? Additionally, how Charlotte pursues Lizzie is rapey as hell. Lizzie has no control over her personal narrative and only exists to be saved by someone else. She is drugged, emotionally and physically abused by Charlotte without any discussion and with her barely knowing her. When all is said and done, Lizzie just trades one form of brainwashing for another.
We never get the details about Charlotte’s institutionalisation. It seems like a convenient plot point that isn’t resolved at all.
Rape revenge movies just aren’t original. It portrays this image that victims must overcome their abuse and use it as a superpower when it’s not that simple. Obviously it’s satisfying in cinema to see an abuser get their comeuppance but it tries to deal with a serious subject matter by making it a fantasy horror. This feels disrespectful to reality.
On top of all this is several stereotypes I found ridiculous. They show the stereotype that lesbians are from a broken or abusive home. Also the stereotype that rape victims are suddenly capable of disgusting violence and can just murder for revenge. In my opinion, they show a complicated and personal experience in a very fantasy driven way that is offensive to the reality many people face. Of course, this is far from the first movie to do so but I’m just so sick and tired of it.
For what it’s worth the effects are good, besides the bug scene that was awful looking.
Overall, The Perfection is another exhausting display of abuse being used for entertainment. I don’t need to be hit over the head with the same message in every movie, especially when it’s done this poorly.
The Final Score - 3/10