The Neon Demon’s Abbey Lee stars in Elizabeth Harvest, yet another stylish yet empty thriller, one just about as punishing as Nicolas Winding Refn’s film about the vicious fashion world. In this contemporary retelling of the Bluebeard story, written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, Lee plays Elizabeth, the beautiful young bride of an aging plutocrat named Henry (Ciarán Hinds). Even for an unassuming viewer, it’s immediately obvious that there’s a sinister energy in the air, from the shadowy house staff (played by Carla Gugino and Matthew Beard) to Elizabeth’s haunting manner of requesting a “light salad and chocolate milkshake” for lunch. Most of all, there’s Henry, who, while giving Elizabeth a tour of their beautiful mansion, stops in front of a door and declares, “The only off-limits room is this one.”
But never mind that red flag, and never mind the warning, too, because a curious Elizabeth disobeys orders and enters the forbidden room. She finds something far more horrifying inside than imaginable — though maybe more imaginable for viewers familiar with previous versions of Bluebeard, especially given that Henry’s profession is “scientist.” Of course, Gutierrez works some twists on the familiar premise, and one standout thrill of a chase scene employs Brian De Palma’s signature split screens. But as it nears the two-hour mark, the film becomes exhausting, shedding very little light on the futuristic implications of the story. It’s especially draining when Gutierrez decides to explain everything via Elizabeth reading a journal. There’s a good way of doing a modern retelling of Bluebeard (see: Ex Machina), but Elizabeth Harvest is not it.
Written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez
Opens August 10, IFC Center
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 8, 2018