‘Longlegs’ review: Nicolas Cage’s horror film is terrifying — and fantastic

‘Longlegs’ review: Nicolas Cage’s horror film is terrifying — and fantastic

“Longlegs,” a gripping horror film about a mysterious Oregon serial killer on the loose, racks up many spooky superlatives.

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Running time: 101 minutes. Rated R (bloody violence, disturbing images and some language). In theaters July 12.

Chief among them? The freakish title character easily ranks among Nicolas Cage’s strangest roles. 

That a mighty impressive feat for the man who’s played a grizzly truffle forager and an underground criminal whose face is superimposed onto John Travolta.

But Cage’s creepy, enigmatic Longlegs, with a squeaky voice and swollen face splotched by white paint, is on another messed-up level.

Really, the entire addictive film, written and directed by Oz Perkins, is one of the best horror movies of the past several years. 

Neither shield-your-eyes torture porn nor a by-the-book slasher flick, “Longlegs” is powered by an ever-present sense of dread that never lets up, an engrossing story and fascinating characters. Its frightful imagery lingers in the mind for days, whether you want it to or not.

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The most obvious comparison in mood and subject matter is to Jonathan Demme’s seminal Best Picture Oscar winner “The Silence of the Lambs,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. 

Maika Monroe plays an FBI agent on the hunt for a serial killer. Courtesy Everett Collection

Like “Lambs,” “Longlegs” is also about a newbie FBI agent who’s uniquely suited to tracking down a sought-after killer. 

However, whereas Clarice Starling was shrewdly able to coax information out of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Special Agent Lee Harker (Maika Monroe) is a little bit psychic.  

After easily catching a different killer through intuition alone, her superior, Agent Carter (Blair Underwood), asks Lee to look into Longlegs — a shadowy figure who’s left Satanic letters at 10 gruesome family murders over 30 years, stumping authorities.

Nicolas Cage transforms — again — into creepy Longlegs. Courtesy Everett Collection

No evidence has ever been found proving that he committed manslaughter, and there’s no trace of him having been at any of the crime scenes either. Only the letters written in scary symbols. 

The deaths in each instance were at the hands of a father, who, authorities assume, was instructed by Longlegs to do it.

Shy and emotionally frigid Lee chases him as the clock ticks down to his next brutal massacre.

Perkins’ film is full of left-field surprises, made more unexpected by its blend of genres. Set in the morally dicey 1990s, it’s a bit rural police procedural, a la “Twin Peaks,” but its supernatural and religious elements add shades of Brian De Palma’s “Carrie.” As does Perkins’ artful shots. 

Fear lurks under every ideally lit archway. And each detailed, stale room has the same foreboding of exploring your grandparents’ dusty old basement as a child. 

Alicia Witt plays Lee’s mom Ruth, who is not the most loving of parents. Courtesy Everett Collection

And as Lee investigates these sinister places, Monroe is excellent. Her Lee is troubled and off-putting, yet unsuspectingly funny, too. Phone calls with Lee’s slightly off mother Ruth (Alicia Witt) are layered. They don’t seem to like each other much, but she calls mom daily all the same.

Monroe has had an up-and-down career. I especially enjoyed her in 2019’s “Honey Boy,” although there have been quite a few more “Bling Ring”s on the resume. This focused and serious performance will mark a turning point in the actress’ career.

Cage’s left turn into Crazytown happened a long time ago, and I’m loving the warped ride

What’s so unsettling about his Longlegs is, as big and cartoonish as he is, the weirdo is just believable enough. You could run into him late at night at a highway rest stop or, God forbid, on an empty subway platform. Cage makes a meal out of the murderer.

During this so-so summer at the movies, something’s finally got legs.