Cuckoo (2018)

Cuckoo Review


Through “Cuckoo,” a 2018 supernatural horror film directed by Tilman Singer, the director’s first feature movie (Luz) is broadened. He does this by maintaining the same disrespectful towards coherent plot or narrative of that film whilst being global in scope. Stylish atmospherics blended with old-school reproductive horror and pro-switchblade advertorial make ‘Cuckoo’ an outlandish energetic fusion. “I’m Your Man” by Maria Schrader was another occasion when a German-spoken villain role allowed Dan Stevens to shine after his excellent performance as a maniacal banker in ‘Euphoria’. Few films are able to extract such sinister significance out of Gretchen’s name which suggestively mispronounces Teutonicly so often like this one does.

Inceptionally, it appears that Gretchen, played by Hunter Schafer from Euphoria, must be the cuckoo in this film where she co-stars alongside Jessica Henwick as Beth Luis’ second wife who has never met his daughter until now because they’re moving to an alpine resort in Bavaria where he lives with her and his mute eight year old Alma (Mila Lieu). They were on their honeymoon many years ago there when they became friends with its rich but clearly mad owner Herr König played hilariously offbeat Dan Stevens who delivers some great lines while speaking perfect German again following Maria Schrader’s I’m your Man so it seems fitting he would play such a wonderfully macabre character created only by someone who knows how others see germans abroad too well. Anyway so then Mrs.Beth gets hired by Mr.König himself just to renovate his hotel or at least that is what he tells them why brought them there.

The midcentury modern interiors of Hotel Cuckoo are sparsely furnished and slightly dated, although intentionally indistinct regarding when exactly they are dated to. This film is geographically located, but temporally situated much less definitely: Dario Mendez Acosta’s production designer sets up a world where we have smartphones next to cassette tape answerphones and noise-cancelling headsets above paper filing systems without feeling at all like any of these things do not belong together within its own timeline.

Immediately after arriving at the hotel, strange events begin taking place around Gretchen. She grows more frantic with each passing day and this scared both Luis and Beth who are unable understand her until they see what has happened outside their door – bruises on her arms which can only mean one thing; someone attacked or hurt her. For just when Alma develops epileptic seizure symptoms does an emotionless doctor (Proschat Madani) working in some kind of medical facility somewhere on site but never adequately explained ask if there had been any traumatic event recently experienced by anyone within that family? Unfortunately for them it was Ed played sympathetically by Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey whom she fell in love with even though he turned out to be heterosexual because otherwise both women would’ve escaped together only that lady whose screams put you into time loops every time listened wasn’t having it.

If you know about Gretchen’s mother and Alma’s conception which isn’t just that she absorbed her twin in the womb but something far worse then “Cuckoo” might be categorized under the loose umbrella of a grief horror or a motherhood movie. But Singer doesn’t have anything quite so high-falutin’ or conceptual on his mind, at least not consistently. Or if he does, it’s drowned out by the 27 other things he wants to get weird with at the same time, some more successfully than others, and none of them any more rationally connected than all of the increasingly convoluted exposition dumps preceding a needlessly protracted shoot-out finale.

Perverse Dr. Moreau-style genetic experimentation, copious vomiting, some kind of pregnancy-inducing ectoplasmic goop being spewed as well as lank-haired pheromonal teenagers and a setting that encompasses both the typical Overlook-style remote mountain hotel and several sinister-looking cabins in the woods – “Cuckoo” has all of it, explains none of it and still finds time for König to pull a little flute from his pocket and start playing it like a latter day Pied Piper.

To which we can only say Stay weird. The only thing we fear (other than an undead mythic species being Frankensteined into a relative on the whim of a wealthy German madman) is that when Singer inevitably gets plucked up to the Hollywood big leagues, he’ll decide to start making sense. Part of what makes his electrically erratic sophomore feature such fun is that it’s blissfully devoid of any sort of program save for maybe an obliquely anti bioessentialist notion that when surviving an onslaught of impeccably retrofitted horror tropes, Dads are useless, Moms can’t be trusted and little sisters plus sexy lesbian strangers are pretty much your only hope that, and a switchblade.

Watch Cuckoo For Free On Gomovies.

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