Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz) has moved into a New York City apartment with her best friend Erica Penn (Maika Monroe), trying to get away from the bad memories in her native Boston, where she has lost her mother in the past year. She is making ends meet as a waitress in a swanky restaurant, and takes the subway every night, but on one journey she notices a handbag has been left on one of the seats and picks it up. There's nobody in the ticket booth, so she cannot hand it in, so she brings it home with the aim of delivering it to its owner once she finds out who that is. However, she cannot dream of the trouble she will get into by befriending Greta (Isabelle Huppert).
Greta being the owner of said handbag, and very pleased to have it returned, especially when she can make a new pal of Frances in Neil Jordan's second horror movie after a years-long hiatus since his last, the vampire effort Byzantium. This was not a supernatural effort, more a psychological thriller in fact, but the unreal elements were present, either in its adherence to the template of many a shocker that came before it, or in the manner in which the plot grew ever more outlandish, to the point where you could justifiably wonder if the whole affair was a spoof or not. The thing was, it appeared that it was all right to laugh at the film, even positively encouraged in places.
Really this was a trashy thriller made by smart people, which meant a hoary old set of plottings and performances and direction that exhibited more dedication than perhaps the material deserved but was welcome anyway. If you had seen those nineteen-nineties paranoid chillers where seemingly friendly folks turned out to be dangerous lunatics, thus enabling the viewers, never mind the characters, to be smug in the conviction that they were right to be as suspicious as humanly possible of their neighbours, their colleagues and even the person who might appear to be decent enough friend material but was actually a wolf in sheep's clothing, then you would know the territory well.
Of course, such behaviour was happening in real life, it was not a genre inspired solely by the success of stuff like The Stepfather and Misery, and that paranoia came to define the following century in a manner that the nineties laid the groundwork for, what with the rise of the internet and social media providing ample opportunities for an army of stalkers to follow the object of their obsession without even needing to leave their houses. This unhealthy interest in precisely what other people were getting up to behind closed doors was assisted by those self-same people being only too happy to share precisely that information via photographs and videos posted online; though we see Greta feasting on Frances's profile, she has been going about stalking the hard way.
It is no spoiler to reveal that Greta has designs on her innocent prey, her Old World European grimness more than a match for Frances's New World innocence, and amusingly ridiculous details such as the famously French star not actually being French (!) were paid off in punchlines both throwaway and more important to the narrative. You could judge this sort of horror as being beneath the cast, but in light of the dedication they went about their roles, Huppert having a ball as an absolute nutter and Moretz her easily snared and toyed-with victim bringing just the right level of vulnerability so you could believe she would not be aware of the terrible choices she made to keep attracting the maniac, you would be glad they did. Many a respected thespian let their hair down in a genre movie, and that only increased their popularity: you could imagine Huppert, Moretz and Monroe gaining new fans as a result of this and films like it. If nothing else, it proved the twenty-first century was where it was best to keep yourself to yourself, the fear being that may still not be enough to repel the psychos. Music by Javier Navarrete.