Jennifer Reeder’s Perpetrator (2023) is many things, most notably a self-described feminist horror-noir movie.
The Chicago-based director and writer’s screenplay revolves around Jonny Baptiste (Kiah McKirnan), a super hip and motherless teen whose inept father (Tim Hopper) sends her to live with her estranged aunt (Alicia Silverstone) right before she turns 18.
The exaggerated, and sometimes comical, coming-of-age thriller has Jonny going through a mystical metamorphosis on her birthday. As such, she feels turbo-charged empathy while her body gushes blood. Lots and lots of blood. Sounds like an intense period.
Under the guise of a supernatural story, the allegorical tale shows how young women must learn to become shapeshifters in one way or another in order to acquiesce to society. Whether depicting a satirical high school setting or gory missing girl scenario, the film underlines the demands and dangers that females face.
Perpetrator’s cast includes Christopher Lowell who appeared in Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman (2020) which more successfully conveys the complexities of female rage and the male gaze. Also noteworthy is this indie flick’s score by Nick Zinner and cinematography by Sevdije Kastrati.
With ever-present music, handheld shots and jump cuts, Reeder tries to make the most of her resources. Maybe too much. Indeed, there are a lot of stylistic things going on that never let viewers forget they’re watching a low-budget movie. Granted, one can argue that the film’s homespun quality is part of its charm. Nevertheless, Perpetrator is made for a very specific and forgiving audience.
Shot in Chicago, the movie can currently be seen at Music Box Theatre. For show times, visit www.musicboxtheatre.com.