LOOKING GLASS **
Directed by Tim Hunter. Starring Nicolas Cage, Robin Tunney, Marc Blucas, Ernie Lively. USA / Canada 2018 103 mins. Certificate : 18
Released by Lionsgate on DVD 23rd April 2018
In another era, director Tim Hunter made waves with the extraordinary RIVER’S EDGE, a misanthropic late-80’s cinematic post-mortem proffering an authentic vision of disaffected youth with the addition ingredient of post-BLUE VELVET Dennis Hopper, never knowingly restrained. In the decades since, Hunter has worked mostly on television – some of which (TWIN PEAKS, HANNIBAL) has been equally extraordinary, but his film work has been sparse and mundane.
A case in point is LOOKING GLASS, a glum addition to the strain of motel-based voyeuristic American thrillers from PSYCHO through to the forgettable VACANCY. It is built on an entirely familiar thriller trope: grief-stricken but united couple Nicolas Cage (sporting beard and glasses in the pretence that he might be an “ordinary guy”) and Robin Tunney attempt to move on from the tragic death of their young daughter by taking over a motel in Nowheresville, USA. Pretty soon, Cage has discovered a crawlspace and a two-way mirror offering vicariously thrilling (or not) visual insights into what the guests are getting up to behind closed doors. Although a paranoid old timer and an ageing sex addict are relatively innocuous guests, a dark history of the motel is uncovered, including mysterious past disappearances and the violent death of a previous customer.
The central scenario would seem to beg for a full-tilt 1980’s De Palma kind of execution, complete with intentionally outrageous phallic symbols, Frankie Goes to Hollywood musical interludes, cheerful pondering over fist-fucking and ingeniously loopy plot-turns. Sadly, Hunter, like the dialled-down Cage, plays it straight, and the results are oddly bland. There are narrative quirks, like the discovery of a dead pig in the pool and Cage’s random fantasies of being noshed off by the cleaner – alongside an assault by a giallo-style black-gloved killer that’s intercut with Cage and Tunney having sex. These days, however, you could be forgiven for expecting more from an 18-rated thriller than some coy lesbian bondage sessions and sexually active seniors.
Robin Tunney never got the roles she deserved after excellent lead performances in her youth for 90’s genre fare like THE CRAFT and END OF DAYS, though she might be the best thing about LOOKING GLASS. Marc Blucas, meanwhile, proves as one-note and dull as the town Sheriff here as he was as Buffy’s fourth-season nice-guy boyfriend on the small screen. It’s lacking in style and suspense, the long build-up paying off with the equivalent of a celluloid shrug: the unmasking of a guessable antagonist and a standard-issue violent climactic confrontation.
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