Wow! (Always a good sign, as you know, when I start a review with ‘wow’).
Films don’t scare me very easily. Horror films tend to bore me, amuse me or disgust me but only rarely scare me. And Peacock isn’t a horror film. At least, I didn’t think it was, though I knew absolutely nothing about the film when I started watching it (which is the way I like it). But the first three minutes of Peacock scared the willies out of me (I could not even look at the snack I had brought down to enjoy with my film). And in some ways, it only got worse after that, thanks in part to the fact that I found Peacock completely unpredictable (such a rare treat).
I’m not sure into which genre Peacock even fits. I suppose it’s a psychological thriller, but for the most part it doesn’t behave like a psychological thriller (see below). Some would probably call this a horror film, mainly because it’s so scary and has the feel of a horror film, but Peacock doesn’t satisfy my criteria for that genre either. Which leaves me calling it something like ‘bizarre disturbing drama’.
It doesn’t give much away, since you find out in the first few minutes (though it lessens the impact of those minutes), to tell you this is a film about a guy (John) with a very freaky multiple personality disorder. If that’s not your thing, stay away from Peacock. Somehow John, who was abused by his mother (nothing new there - think Psycho), has been able to keep his problem under control and even turn it to his advantage for an entire year (since his mother’s death). But then a train derailment sends a caboose into his backyard (in Peacock, Nebraska) and everything comes apart. In a normal psychological thriller, this coming apart would result in all kinds of action, violence and scenes designed to shock. In Peacock, director Michael Lander keeps everything relatively calm and subdued, making it all the scarier.
Peacock is worth watching for the performance of Cillian Murphy alone. I have always thought of him as a competent actor but wow, this is a remarkable Oscar-worthy performance. Ellen Page co-stars and is excellent, as usual, as is Susan Sarandon in an important supporting role, and Josh Lucas impressed me as the sheriff of Peacock. Bill Pullman and Keith Carradine round out a fine supporting cast.
The cinematography is unusual. Peacock looks and feels like an old film, something made in the 70s, which I assume is the intent (it was made in 2010). The score is generally good though just a bit too strong at points.
Does the plot of Peacock lack credibility? Sure. Does it matter? Not enough. Because Peacock held my attention better than most films and sucked me completely into its disturbing story. So why the heck did a film this good not even get released in theatres (it went straight to DVD)? Don’t ask me, especially with all the junk out there. But if a low-key humanizing psychological thriller that grabs you and won’t let go is your idea of a good time, this is for you. ***+ My mug is up, but next time I watch a film like this I want someone else in the house with me.