What makes a better Horror story than cold blooded murder? How about an unsolved real life mysterious tale of a double murder sprinkled into a forbidden love challenge bombarded with uncomfortable situations of a sexual nature? That is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the mythology surrounding Lizzie Borden, tried and acquitted prime suspect in the 1892 axe murder of her parents.
A story that continues to raise questions and fascinate, it has made its way into literary works, folk rhymes, and of course, feature films. Which brings us to the newest feature about the tale of Lizzie Borden, Lizzie, set for release in theaters Friday, September 14, 2018 through Saban Films and Roadside Attractions.
While there have been a list of other renditions of Lizzie Borden’s story, including the 1975 film, as well the recent Lifetime series The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, this latest work of art, directed by Craig William Macneill (The Boy 2015, Channel Zero series) and written by Bryce Kass (Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs 2014), is arguably the most natural and historically accurate version yet.
With an all-star cast, featuring Chloë Sevigny (American Psycho 2000, American Horror Story series) as Lizzie Borden herself, Kristen Stewart (Twilight series, Snow White and the Huntsman 2012) as Bridget Sullivan, the maid at the Borden house the day of the murders, and Jamey Sheridan (The Ice Storm 1997, Sully 2016) as Andrew Borden, Lizzie’s father, the suspension of disbelief remained strong throughout.
Set in 1892 Fall River, Massachusetts, the film’s cinematography style – thanks to Noah Greenberg (The Boy 2015, Channel Zero series) – channels intimacy, honesty, and vulnerability with its close ups and cleanliness. This aspect is so important because they play a huge role in the plot line as Lizzie and her Irish immigrant housemaid Bridget develop a bond that turns into a bit more than friendship amidst an ongoing rape scandal caused by the father of the household.
As everyone knows something about the story of Lizzie Borden, the truth, it is just as relevant now as it was in 1892. Though the actual account of the story is full of speculations, the way Macneill’s Lizzie plays out is in a very careful and compelling way that sympathizes very much with Lizzie’s perspective of the story. This in turn helps get into the mind of a possible revenge killer who in a very real way brings a hint of justice to her family by the murder of the rapist in the family. There is an attention to specific details as well as uses of subtle, vulnerable, and unexpected nudity to trigger an emotion in a successful matter.
The character of the stepmother Abby Borden (Fiona Shaw: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 2002, True Blood series) in Lizzie is flawlessly done, as Shaw takes the audience on a journey from sympathy to cowardice in a moments notice. The sister, Emma Borden, and uncle, John Morse, portrayed by Kim Dickens (Hollow Man 2000, Gone Girl 2014) and Denis O’ Hare (Garden State 2004, Milk 2008), also carried the tune of innocence followed by betrayal through the air in a convincing way.
Combined with the cinematography and strong performances from the cast, the accuracy of the period costumes, scenery, and even the natural sound design – featuring piano, chimes, and birds chirping – flush out Lizzie into an even more believable world. Even some of the particular noted subtleties, such as documented characters’ quirks were attended to in the film – a smart direction to go in. It is this usage of detailed facts mixed with interesting interpretations of what could have been that bring to life uncomfortable subjects like rape, as well as the non-acceptance of lesbianism at that time, which awakes the mind into provoking thoughts on the subjects that is necessary in raising awareness and helping in a healing process.
Overall, at just under 2 hours, Lizzie does not disappoint in the least, despite not being chock-full of blood and guts. In order to really appreciate and comprehend what Lizzie Borden’s life must have been like leading up to that murderous morning in 1892, one must travel through the daily struggles and out of control emotional outrage she employed – a horrific journey in itself that this film beautifully captured. A recommended Horror movie for adults with strong stomachs, as well as backbones, CrypticRock gives Lizzie 4.5 out of 5 stars.