In Queen of Earth, old friends Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) and Ginny (Katherine Waterston) escape to a vacation home for a second year in a row to relax and strip away the taxing nature of urban life. Catherine, having recently suffered a loss, is distraught and distracted. She goes on walks that last for miles and lays in bed for hours, complaining that her face is hurting. Depression looms over her head, and it seeps into the world around her. Behind that depression hangs a patiently waiting fury.
Alex Ross Perry makes what we would expect to see–wide open natural spaces and the tranquility of the rural world–anything but present. From the opening shot, a close-up of Moss, her face broken in tears that have smeared her makeup, we are in the hands of Perry’s constricting grasp. Tight close-ups cut away the serenity of the setting. Everything is claustrophobic, even more so because of the fact that we know it is being forced upon us by the cinematographic choices. It is a palpable feeling that dominates the proceedings. Even quiet moments that strip away some of the tension are uneasily shot.
This movie prods at you. The moodiness eats away at you. Characters clash both with realistic motivations and surreal outbursts, leaving the movie as a whole to be a strange blend between the two. At times, this dichotomy seems like an inconsistency, but for the most part it is simply intriguing.
The slow burn of tension in the film seems to last forever. Like the depression of its protagonist, it meanders for a time before reaching out to take hold of you, then it meanders some more. Atmospherically, Queen of Earth is unrelenting.
Elisabeth Moss becomes invisible behind her character. As Catherine slips farther into her mental instability, we at times lose sight of the reality of the situation, but Moss remains scarily real. She haunts the screen every moment she is on it.
Queen of Earth is an acquired taste. A bitter acquired taste, like that of a shot of fine whiskey. Perhaps it will hurt going down, but as the aftertaste sits on the tongue you can feel the depth of flavors appear. Smart writing. Entrancing acting. Disorienting camera work. A quietly and eerily sweet score. By the end, another shot sounds inviting.
Please drink responsibly.
For the second time this year, mumblegore has come into my radar and has surprised me. Queen of Earth is more mumble and less gore than Creep, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t terrifying in its own right. Queen of Earth crawls under the skin. It may not stay there after the credits roll like the best of the genre, but it gets the job done for 90 minutes. 90 cold, eerie minutes.
Queen of Earth is currently available to rent on Amazon Instant Video here.
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen Queen of Earth? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)