SHOULD I SEE IT?
A wicked little movie, Villains has a mix of macabre humor, off-the-wall sequences, and horror-influenced suspense to keep people curious to the final frames.
Maika Monroe again reminds us that she needs to be a bigger star, and her work her alongside Bill Skarsgård here is terrific.
Might be a breakout for the writing/directing team of Dan Berk and Robert Olsen.
This may all feel like it’s trying way too hard to be cool, novel, and successful for some people’s tastes.
This movie is built on the backs of how audiences will receive the varying degrees of villains we encounter over the course of 90 minutes. If this doesn’t hook you at the start, you likely aren’t going to enjoy this a whole lot.
Stumbles around capturing the different genre feels it aims for. Villains is not quite a satire, not quite a horror movie, not quite a suspense film, not quite a comedy.
The third collaboration between writing/directing partners Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, Villains is something of a genre agitator. While it sets up like a domestic horror film, the film also has biting satirical humor. As it takes our two main characters into a setting they will struggle to escape from, the suspense becomes lifted by introducing an oddly behaving older couple who seem more bizarre than menacing.
And so it goes with a film which seems to be trying to please many different masters. If we look past some of the tonal inconsistencies here and there, and just go along on a ride with everything Berk and Olsen offer us, Villains can be quite the entertaining curiosity.
Mickey and Jules (Bill Skarsgård and Maika Monroe, respectively) are low-level dart-and-dash criminals who have taken to convenience stores as a way to realize their dreams of opening up a beachfront life for themselves in Florida. To define their abilities and set the stage properly, they knock off a gas station, then proceed to run out of gas minutes later, on a rural road in Anywhere, U.S.A.
Unsure of what to do next, Mickey notices a mailbox just ahead of where they have stalled out. A harebrained plan is quickly conceived to case the home, see what’s happening, and steal a car to put them back on their merry plan of achieving Floridian utopia.
Oh, those best laid plans.
Believing the residents are away, they gain access and attempt to work quickly, only to make an alarming discovery in the basement…and get caught by homeowners George and Gloria (Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick).
Looking as if they stepped out of a completely different time period (think late 1950s, maybe early 1960s), George and Gloria are not so forgiving in permitting their unwanted house guests the opportunity to leave and forget any of this ever happened. Gloria seems to have a newborn baby and George carries a sartorial demeanor that is as disquieting as it is kind of alluring.
What Villains soon becomes is a cat-and-mouse game of how these two couples will work to outwit and outlast one another. Things get wild, sometimes absurdly so, but there is a rhythm and a cadence to the film which keeps us playing along.
Monroe, by now a veteran of off-kilter suspense/horror hybrids, is as engaging as ever and her chemistry with Skarsgård elevates the material tremendously. On the other side, Donovan steals the show with his tense, impeccably kept appearance, and Southern gentleman, snake oil salesman-like charm. Sedgwick is unhinged, imbalanced, emotionally stunted and psychotic, but the actress looks like she is having the time of her life on screen, in this role.
When a young girl gets added to the mix (Blake Baumgartner), another layer of suspense should arrive, but Berk and Olsen veer all over the map in how they work through each scene. As wonderful as the yin-and-yang represented by both couples is to watch play out, some decisions and motivations do not always make the most sense. At times, it feels like Berk and Olsen just double down on a “wouldn’t that be wild?!” type of storytelling, which puts notable dents into an otherwise relatively sturdy narrative structure.
Be that as it may, if you allow it to be, Villains can be a lot of fun. The acting holding most everything together.
Though it overreaches by the end and aims for sentimentality and an emotional conclusion that is wholly unearned, plenty of moments will make you laugh, cock your head, and remain intermittently fascinated and curious about where all of this is going and what any of it means.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Maika Monroe, Jeffrey Donovan, Kyra Sedgwick, Blake Baumgartner.
Director: Dan Berk, Robert Olsen
Written by: Dan Berk, Robert Olsen
Release Date: September 20, 2019
Gunpowder & Sky