While I wouldn't exactly call Lynne Ramsay's 2011 thriller We Need To Talk About Kevin a horror film, there are plenty of aspects about it that are truly horrific, not the least of which is its main premise: a helpless mother deals with a son that is psychopathic right out of the womb. Based on Lionel Shriver's 2003 novel, the film takes a winding path towards an incident that is slowly peeled back, onion-skin style. We, the audience, get clues as to what's going on, but we don't get the full story until near the end. By that time, though, you'll pretty much guess how the movie will pan out, and it will leave you feeling uneasy and sad.
Eva (Tilda Swinton) gives birth to little Kevin, who doesn't seem to bond well with his mother. She's not exactly Mother of the Year, though, as she is constantly impatient with the odd child. As an infant, he never stops crying when she's around, but clams up when held by his father, Franklin (John C. Reilly). At one point during a walk in the city, she pauses for a long while near a jackhammer just to drown out Kevin's constant bawling. When Kevin gets older, he's a constant challenge, and that's putting it nicely. He refuses to potty train, and soils his diapers on purpose to tick off Eva. Fed up, she wrongly throws him against a wall, breaking his arm. Kevin doesn't tattle on her, but already his manipulative nature kicks in and he lords the incident over Eva. Eva and Franklin have another baby - unplanned, as the cracks in the marriage continue to widen - but the little girl, Celia, is sweet and every bit the cute kid Kevin isn't. "Inspired" by a story read to him by Eva, Kevin takes a keen interest in archery, becoming quite adept at it as he grows into a teenager (played with cool evil by Ezra Miller).
Even years on, Kevin harbors a psychotic disdain for his mother. Eva feels helpless, as no one, even Franklin, will believe what kind of darkness inhabits Kevin. Just how dark that abyss in him is grows evident throughout the flashbacks and flash-forwards: Kevin is imprisoned for something that doesn't come to light until the final act. Let's just say you don't put a bow and arrows in the hands of an ultra-intelligent, sociopathic teenager with Mommy issues. The movie slides into this final act with no hint of "surprises" or "twists"...you know what's about to happen, and just like Eva, there's nothing you can do about it.
Make no mistake: We Need To Talk About Kevin is not a feel-good movie. I would say those seeking a hip-hip-hooray movie (or moms-to-be, for that matter) try something a little less bleak. But still, this is a fine piece of filmmaking that is a study in the building of dread over a ninety-minute span of time.
Next review, I'm writing about something a little less dreary!
Now here's the trailer, which is pretty intense itself: