Snippets of times past tumble around inside the deteriorating mind of the mother of a teenage sociopath in this riveting study of madness, evil and despair. Okay, so it’s no laff riot, but a sophisticated horror movie that’ s all the more horrific for its lack of supernatural rationalities. It’s not trying to be The Omen; it’s trying to be scarier. What happens here could and has happened, and this is a fascinating attempt to understand the genesis of a modern-day monster. As we piece the fragmented timeline together, we find that Eva (an astounding, anchoring Tilda Swinton) was a reluctant mother and an insincere, resentful parent. The vibe is picked up by her difficult son from colicky infancy through trying toddler to evil adolescence (played as a teen by Ezra Miller), and the boy early on makes it his life quest to make hers miserable, while appearing to be just fine to his oblivious, doting dad (John C. Riley). It’s a grim but compelling sit, but rewarding for those who go to the movies for honest emotional engagement, no matter how hard it is to watch.
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