Lizzie is out exclusively on Shudder which might not be the right place for it. While this is a good Lizzie Borden themed movie, it’s not a good horror movie. Shudder does call it a “psychological thriller”, but it’s mostly a drama. Read more in this review!
Lizzie is a new horror drama, exclusively streaming on Shudder. Lizzie premiered on April 11, and it’s been met with some good reviews from both critics and viewers (per the Shudder comments feature). But I was not as impressed.
Lizzie? As in Borden? Yes.
Lizzie tells the true-crime story of titular Lizzie Borden. On August 4, 1892, Andrew (Lizzie’s father) and Abby Borden (her stepmother) were found brutally murdered in their Massachusetts home. While the consensus is that Lizzie committed these heinous crimes, this homicide case has remained (and will probably always remain) unsolved.
Aren’t there already a ton of movies and shows about Lizzie Borden?
Your reading this on Heaven of Horror probably means that you are familiar with the Borden murders. However, rather than focusing on a retelling or aftershock of the crimes, Lizzie is an “origin story” of the younger Borden sister.
Whether this same story was told through Christina Ricci’s recent portrayals of Borden (Film: Lizzie Borden Took an Ax, Television: The Lizzie Borden Chronicles), I cannot say; I have not seen them (both on Netflix USA as of April 28).
But… drama trumps horror in Lizzie
Lizzie is less of a horror movie and much more of a drama piece. It tells the story of an emotionally and physically abused woman (Lizzie, played by the ever-so-brilliant Chloe Sevigny), an outcast within her own family.
Pushed to the point of desperation given the true threat that her family may very well “send her away” (to where, it is not clear), she seeks and finds solace (both in an emotional and physical sense) in the new housemaid, Bridget Sullivan (played by Kristen Stewart).
Following Bridget’s arrival at the beginning of the film, Lizzie is a story of transformation, all the while leading up to the infamous 1892 axe/hatchet murders.
So, is it worth watching? Depends on what you’re looking for
Lizzie is a good movie, but it is not a good horror movie, which I would have expected from Shudder. When I paused the movie, the short blurb that appears at the top of the screen reads as follows: “A psychological thriller based on the infamous 1892 murders of the Borden family.”
Accordingly, a “psychological thriller” is what I anticipated. Sadly, these expectations were not actuated. Lizzie is a very slow burn that just does not deliver in the horror genre given its real potential.
Stellar casting and acting
The casting and acting were, in fact, very well done. The movie stars Sevigny, Stewart, Fiona Shaw as Abby Borden, (“Aunt Petunia” of the Harry Potter franchise), Jamey Sheridan as Andrew Borden, and Denis O’Hare as John Morse (Lizzie’s uncle).
Sevigny’s performance elicits feelings of sympathy on behalf of Borden. We are prone to cheer for her as an underdog. Sheridan’s performance was captivating, reminiscent of the twisted, abusive parenting portrayed by Julianne Moore in the most recent Carrie remake.
And, since American Horror Story debuted, I have been a big fan of O’Hare, and he really perfects the “creepy uncle” stereotype.
You can watch Lizzie on Shudder now
But, despite the strong performances of the actors, Lizzie underperforms as another installment in the overdone horror remakes of the infamous murders. It is very slow, with an ending that is anti-climactic. In place of suspense and terror, the movie elicits feelings of sadness, empathy, disgust (toward Morse and Andrew Borden), and hatred (toward the Borden parents).
With respect to the horror genre, my rating of Lizzie is 2 of 5 stars.
The brilliant performances of Sevigny, Sheridan, Shaw, and O’Hare were unfortunately wasted on a dragging storyline of a non-novel recapitulation of a story that horror fans just know too well.
Director: Craig William Macneill
Writer: Bryce Kass
Stars: Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jeff Perry, Fiona Shaw, Kim Dickens
Chloë Sevigny stars as Lizzie Borden, the notorious woman at the heart of one of the most enduring mysteries in American history. After a lifetime of loneliness, Lizzie finds a kindred spirit in housemaid Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart) and their secret intimacy sparks an unthinkable act.