The Film (3/5)
Catherine’s (Elisabeth Moss) life is starting to fall apart after the death of her father and a nasty break up with her boyfriend. Trying to help her get away from it all is her best friend Virginia (Katherine Weston), who is letting her stay at her family’s lake house for the week. But things soon turn nasty as Catherine starts suffering a nervous breakdown with memories of her ex-boyfriend and the dread of not living up to her father’s legacy as an artist. Things get creepier when one of Virginia’s boyfriends (Patrick Fugit) stops by and starts nosing around.
QUEEN OF EARTH (2015) is an unusual throwback thriller. Filmed in the style of 1960’s thrillers with harsh documentary close-ups, the movie is a welcome return to a different kind of thriller. Everything is quiet with a boiling dread in every scene. The slow burn method works as we slowly see the friendship of two people crash and burn. No harsh cuts or “scary” music is used, just naturalistic performances and lighting.
QUEEN OF EARTH is also the next in line of well-made female willpower movies, where two women have a battle of wits and mind games. The most obvious influence is Ingmar Bergman’s PERSONA (1966), but tonally it turns into more of a Claude Chabrol movie, especially LES BICHES (1968). The dynamic of having two women stuck in a house before a strange man comes between them is one of the lifted high points. But those are not the only neat little references that highlight the story. There’s visual lifts from REPULSION (1967) and CARNVIAL OF SOULS (1962), with a plate of rotten food and a group of white face strangers closing in on Catherine.
Performance Wise everyone is in top form. Elizabeth Moss goes through a wide range of intense of emotions. She is always fascinating to watch, even if some of her dialogue is flat. There’s plenty of hints of a violent outburst that’s about to happen and she never seems fake about it. Katherine Weston has a striking look to her. She actually fills pulled out of a 60’s or 70’s film. Her soulful eyes are the heart of the film. Her performance also makes some of the shallow problems these characters have believable.
And here’s where get to the problem with the movie, it feels shallow. The characters sadly never feel fully developed with their issues. The script never actually dives into why their lives are so bad or stressful. The character of Catherine just seems like she is over reacting for most of the film. Her life isn’t that bad and it’s not like she is broke. Virginia is at least self-aware of how her issues are just from being spoiled. So big chunks of the film just seem comical because these characters don’t really have it that bad. It deflates the drama and honestly makes this movie seriously weak for how unpleasant the movie is just to discover it’s just pity rich people problems.
QUEEN OF EARTH comes with two audio tracks. The first and best sounding is the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio English track. The track is smooth with no noticeable issues. Some scenes are really soft, but most of this comes from the whispering dialogue that makes up a good chunk of the movie. The second track is a 2.0 LPCM English track. The overall sound quality is softer and not as clear. But no serious issues. There’s easy to read English subtitles included.
The movie has a 1080p HD Transfer that shows off the color scenery and camerawork. The Transfer is clear with no excess grain or digital noise. The black levels are deep and the rack focuses flow along with no distracting blur. The movie contains many scenes in darkly lit rooms, and the transfer never looks under lit.
The main extra is an audio commentary with director Alex Ross Perry and actress Elizabeth Moss. Also included is a Behind the Scenes featurette (7 minutes and 11 seconds) and a trailer. The featurette has some slight transfer issues with a blurry effect from too much light. Rounding out the package is a 20-page booklet of liner notes by Jason Wood with production stills. The Extras are the same on the Region B Blu-ray and Region 2 DVD.
QUEEN OF EARTH is a very unpleasant journey through depression and the death of a friendship. It contains some neat call backs to PERSONA, REPULSION, and the works of Claude Chabrol, mainly LES BICHES. But unfortunately, the characters never really fully connect and it seems like everyone is just being self-centered. Eureka’s Masters of Cinema Line gives the movie a handsome release if it sounds like your cup of tea. It was just too bitter for me. Cautiously Recommended.