Warning: Massive spoilers for The Perfection ahead!
Netflix's latest thriller has taken audiences by surprise. The Perfection, a violent and shocking revenge thriller, combines body horror with a psychological revenge scheme to produce a deeply disturbing horror movie. And we're not exaggerating: it's disturbing, shocking, and completely bonkers. We're breaking down the details of the movie — and all its creepy twists.
Directed and cowritten by Richard Shepard (with cowriters Nicole Snyder and Eric C. Charmelo), The Perfection stars Allison Williams as Charlotte, a cellist who was once a rising star at an elite academy who gave up her career for a decade to care for her dying mother. At first, the movie seems like a pretty standard-issue psychological thriller in the vein of something like Black Swan. After her mother's death, Charlotte decides to attempt to resume her career. She reconnects with her former instructor, Anton, and meets Lizzie (Logan Browning), a young musical prodigy who is essentially a "replacement" for Charlotte.
Lizzie starts out as Charlotte's rival, but they soon start flirting and, eventually, wind up in bed together and then on a bizarre road trip together. That's where the horror part comes in. We know that Charlotte is definitely up to something and has intentions that aren't clear to us or to Lizzie, but it's not until they're on their trip that we start to get an idea of what's going on. Charlotte starts giving Lizzie mysterious pills that make her horribly sick in one of the movie's grossest, goriest moments.
As soon as the women are stranded on the side of the road, the first major twist kicks in: there's no illness. We saw Lizzie getting violently sick, losing control of multiple bodily functions, in a bug-infested contagion while stuck on a bus in the middle of nowhere. And yet, as soon as they get off the bus and appear to be stuck hiking along the side of the road, the film rewinds to show us the truth. Lizzie is "sick" but not in the way she believes. Charlotte has been drugging Lizzie using her mother's leftover pills, and the gross-out contagion sequence is merely the vivid hallucinations of Lizzie's. At this point, Charlotte plays into Lizzie's drug trip and convinces her that her body is overrun by bugs, and the only way to stop it is to chop off her hand — thus rendering her permanently unable to play the cello.
It seems like this has all been an elaborate, graphic scheme for Charlotte to get revenge on the woman who replaced her. But the film still has even more major twists up its sleeves. If you thought it was horrifying and sickening before, you haven't seen anything yet.
Warning: discussions of sexual abuse follow.
The story soon reveals the nauseating truth: the music academy is an institution built around a "tradition" of sexual abuse. Instructors ritually and routinely molest their students who fail to achieve perfection; there's even a building, creepily named "the Chapel," specially designed for this abuse. Anton is a pedophile and rapist, and Charlotte was one of his many victims.
Eventually, Charlotte finds herself back under Anton's control and back in the Chapel. What seems at first like an approaching trauma, though, turns out to be part of a carefully orchestrated scheme between Charlotte and Lizzie. First, Lizzie poisons Anton's two lackeys who are about to rape Charlotte. The women then head for their real target, Anton himself. There's a struggle, and although Charlotte manages to wound Anton, he gets a swipe in at her as well. It's Lizzie who ultimately lands the final blow.
The movie's epilogue continues the body horror even further. Anton is left alive, but with his limbs severed and his eyes and mouth sewn shut. Since both Charlotte and Lizzie have lost the use of one hand or arm due to their injuries, they work together to play one cello — for Anton. It's a disturbing ending to a disturbing movie, one without any clear "good guys" but plenty of horror and revenge.