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RJ Bayley Reviews: Vicious

by RJ Bayley

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I thought I saw the twist coming. I thought I saw it from a mile off. We’ll be led to believe that Katie is alive, but has actually been dead all along. This is all in Lydia’s head, or Katie is a ghost now, maybe. “Dealing with the death of a close one, that’s what’s really vicious”. How profound.

No, writer and director Oliver Park’s Vicious is a much better film than that. It starts strongly, playing on very real fears of returning home to find someone has apparently broken in – one of the scariest things that can happen within the realms of everyday life – and amps it up with the suspicion that the intruder may still be in your house.

It’s very hard to pull off the whole ‘sneaking round the house, seeing if there really is an intruder’ sequence as it’s been done so many times. Vicious pulls it off to great effect with the aid of a not overly-designed, relatable location and the absolutely gripping acting of Rachel Winters as Lydia. The camerawork is also tight and cramped, amplifying Lydia’s entrapment within her own house.

The skill of the film is that it manages to keep changing genres all the way through. It deliberately catches the viewer off guard, leading us into one set of genre expectations, then doubling back on itself and blending genres together. Home invasion → psychological horror → monster movie → monster movie? → MONSTER MOVIE!: horror fans’ own knowledge of the styles are used against us, our preconceptions flipped and smashed.

There’s some genuinely frightening moments in Vicious. One piece of beautiful in-camera trickery in which a mess of discarded clothes on an armchair are revealed to be something else is particularly memorable. This is a great film.

★★★★★

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