‘Longlegs’ Review – Oz Perkins’ Latest Gets Under Your Skin and Festers Like a Putrid Nightmare


The concept of evil gets explored often in horror in various ways, but very few films manage to immerse viewers in that evil so wholly that it starts to feel like you’re watching something taboo and cursed. The latest by writer/director Oz Perkins (Gretel & Hansel, The Blackcoat’s Daughter), Longlegs gets under your skin and stays there, immersing you so thoroughly in the repulsive, discomforting nature of evil through terrifying imagery and a tactile atmosphere that it’s unshakable. Its nerve-shredding, insidious style of horror serves as a perfect rebuttal to society’s obsession with true crime; evil just exists, and it taints everything it touches.

Much like the marketing, Longlegs plays it close to the vest as it follows young FBI recruit Lee Harker (Maika Monroe), whose uncanny sense of intuition draws the attention of the tenured Agent Carter (Blair Underwood). Harker is so naturally gifted that Carter pulls the agent into his ongoing investigation of serial killer Longlegs (an unrecognizable Nicolas Cage), a demented figure so elusive that the trail to catch him has gone cold. The more that Harker makes headway on the case, though, the stranger things get as Longlegs takes notice of her pursuit. It sets both on a collision course filled with grisly crime scenes and unspeakable evil.

Longlegs Blair Underwood

Oz Perkins unmoors Longlegs from time and reality in a way that intentionally disorients, contributing to a pervading and suffocating sense of dread and foreboding. Small details, like a portrait of Bill Clinton hung behind Agent Carter’s desk, give a general feeling of the era, but the sepia hues and vintage aesthetic speak more to Longlegs’ lengthy history with murder spanning multiple decades, so much so that the killer feels otherworldly. That’s further helped by Nicolas Cage’s most unsettling performance yet. Perkins refreshingly keeps this curious character as enigmatic and elusive as possible, giving only glimpses into the killer’s machinations and treating him more as a peculiar boogeyman. It makes the short bursts of Cage’s eerie freakouts all the more impactful and unnerving. 

Cage is operating in rare, depraved form, but the entire cast is firing on all cylinders. Underwood infuses his character with enough warmth and savvy to balance Monroe’s socially awkward, closed-off Lee, helping humanize the prickly protagonist as he mentors her. Alicia Witt is also in rare form as Lee’s mom, a disturbed hoarder who reminds Lee to keep up her prayers. Lee shrugs her mother’s prodding off, but the increasingly oppressive atmosphere suggests that perhaps she should listen.

It’s not just the grainy vintage look, the eerie sound design, and moody color palette that contributes to Perkins’ ability to capture the essence of evil on screen so well. It’s in the subtle, almost subliminal imagery that’s constantly present. Almost imperceptible silhouettes and demonic forms are lurking in the background in scenes. Voyeuristic shadowed figures or inhuman eyes linger just enough to catch your notice before fading quietly into the ether.

Lee’s bid to thwart Longlegs builds to a suitably insane finale, with no shortage of grotesque and shocking violence along the way. Violence that is rendered more effective thanks to the skin-crawling tone that Perkins sets from the outset. Longlegs injects a true crime story with putrid Satanism and refuses to handhold, serving as a visceral rebuttal to society’s compulsive need to find logic in the most heinous of crimes. Evil simply exists, and in Longlegs, it’s everywhere, watching and biding its time while reveling in the carnage its presence wreaks.

Longlegs is as stylish as it is timeless, dripping with claustrophobic dread and rot.

Longlegs releases in theaters on July 12, 2024.

4.5 skulls out of 5

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