Josie Ho accomplishes a difficult feat in her performance as homicidal psychopath Cheng in Dream Home; she garners sympathy from the viewer. Despite the horrific manner in which she butchers residents of the apartment building she so desperately wants to live in, Ho always allows Cheng to have a hint of childlike naivety and innocence bubbling below the surface. The viewer slowly discovers what drives Cheng and Ho portrays the heartbreak and insanity masterfully. The viewer wants to despise, but Ho makes it nearly impossible, This is masterful acting considering the atrocities the character commits.
Hilary Swank, a two time Oscar winner, takes another stab at the horror genre after previously starring in The Reaping with her role as Juliet Deveraux in The Resident. Swank portrays a woman who slowly realizes that her landlord and love interest is obsessed with and is stalking her. Swank's charisma drives her performance and her feeling of vulnerability when realizing what is happening is palpable. She delivers a plethora of emotions with simple facial expressions and body language and her progression from helpless victim to determined fighter is pitch perfect.
Rose Byrne gives a quiet, understated, yet highly effective performance as Renai Lambert in Insidious. As a young mother experiencing a variety of unexplained activity, Byrne earns the audience's sympathy because she so powerfully creates an authentic character with Renai. Her utter confusion and terror at what her family is experiencing strikes all the right chords and, as a result, makes what is playing out on screen that much more terrifying because Byrne is so believable. Her Renai is undoubtedly one of the most nuanced, grounded genre performances of the year.
Margot Kidder takes every advantage of chewing the scenery with her larger than life portrayal of Beth in Love At First Kill. Kidder holds nothing back in her chilling performance as a wildly over-protective and jealous mother. Kidder is a total marvel to watch as one moment she is able to make your skin crawl with a simple wild-eyed look or tone of voice, but the very next second make you feel sorry for her desperation and loneliness at the possibility of losing her only son. The final moments of the film, complete with Kidder's massive meltdown, establish Beth as one of the most diabolically manipulative screen mothers of the last several years.
Pollyanna McIntosh has no clear dialogue in her performance as The Woman in The Woman. Her performance is one of pure savagery; she completely embraces the look, gait, body language, facial expressions and vocals of the feral cannibal she portrays. Never once does the viewer think they are watching and actress. Instead, McIntosh gives us a brutally unpleasant peek at the vicious side of human nature, yet is able to allow the viewer to root for her to prevail in the end. It is a performance that very well should go down in the annals of horror movie history as a remarkable achievement.
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