This was a while ago, but I did take video art classes from PERPETRATOR director/writer Jennifer Reeder back in my college days. She wouldn’t know me from Adam now — I’m simply noting it out of a sense of responsibility. She’s a great teacher who now teaches at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and I will never forget screening my first extremely personal and intensely overworked short video piece in her class, which one fellow student exclaimed after viewing it: “That gave me a migraine.”
I also saw PERPETRATOR at the Chicago premiere, with a ton of the crew in the audience, as well as with a post-film Q&A between the always awesome Katie Rife and Reeder, so I can’t deny that the entire audience was completely on-board for what they were about to see.
I will try to keep this short and succinct for once, because this is one of those rare films that I feel requires a second viewing, but it’s rolling out on screens this week and I want to boost it!
Director/writer/auteur Jennifer Reeder loves genre conventions, but is also firmly ensconced in experimental works. Her prior feature — KNIVES AND SKIN — is very much about teen girls and high school and cliques and being pursued, but also embraces how these girls get to know their bodies and everything that entails, including how others view and abuse them, and she films all of this through a teen haze; events happen around and to you and they don’t often make sense, but you just roll with it because you don’t know any better. While it shares a lot of DNA from TWIN PEAKS, it is still its own thing.
PERPETRATOR follows in the same vein, but it’s far, far bloodier, far more disturbing, and features far more orifices than her prior film. It’s disturbing, certainly, but it does what I think horror does best: detailing the confusion of body and personality transformation but also how folks simply adjust and accept or reject it. While it is fundamentally a narrative genre feature, it is not afraid of diverging into more surreal and nebulous areas.
I know I’m not doing the film justice with this post. (I will circle back with a later post detailing the rest of the cast and crew!) Hell, I may even be misrepresenting it; it’s that kind of film. I’m a huge fan of her and still I went into this film knowing nothing about it and I’d suggest doing the same. It’s a shocking, provocative, singular film that feels like nothing else out there.
Nonetheless, here’s the trailer, and if you have a SHUDDER subscription, you can watch it there soon, or if you live in NYC or LA or Chicago, you can catch it on the big screen, which is really how you should see some of the puckering.