‘Perpetrator’ Review: Campy, Creepy and Buckets of Blood

High school horror gets a supernatural twist in this ultragory feature.

By Jeannette Catsoulis

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Blood — viscous and dark, venal and menstrual — soaks all the way through “Perpetrator,” Jennifer Reeder’s hyperbolic stab at the high school slasher movie. Noses seep and floors are awash, the treacly ooze serving as both a coming-of-age symbol and a lubricant for a story whose misandry burns bright and hot.

“Girls like you just don’t know what you’ve got till it’s all gone,” a masked sadist breathes, hovering over Jonny Baptiste (Kiah McKirnan), a savvy high school senior. He’s not the only predatory weirdo who threatens the school’s jumpy female students, including a creepy principal (Christopher Lowell) who oversees supposed self-defense classes that warn against biting and screaming. Dating a chiseled alpha male named Kirk (Sasha Kuznetsov) seems especially perilous, given that his crushes rarely reappear in school.

Jonny’s home life is scarcely cozier. Lodged with a witchy great-aunt whose love language is snarling (Alicia Silverstone, disappointingly underused), the motherless teenager must navigate the ancestral superpower that her 18th birthday has recently bestowed: a turbocharged empathy that allows her to physically mimic another person. And perhaps catch a killer.

Screwy and strange, “Perpetrator” is gleefully unsubtle, but its ensanguinated excess is part of the fun. (As is the casting of actors who appear to be on their 10th repeat of 12th grade.) The tone swivels from campy to menacing, outrageous to comic; but Sevdije Kastrati’s oleaginous photography has the surreal power to nail some of the movie’s dottiest sequences, like the killer siphoning his victims’ blood through a wound that resembles an angry anus.

The film’s most enjoyable idea, though, is its positioning of female empathy as armor instead of Achilles’ heel. Gazing into the mirror, Jonny’s face wobbles and shifts; when the perpetrator is revealed, will she be ready?

Rated R for a disembodied heart and a disgusting dessert. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes. In theaters.


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