Unnerving Nicolas Cage Horror Movie Isn’t What You Think It Is (& That’s A Good Thing)


  • Longlegs is a psychological horror film with an atmospheric and unnerving tone.
  • FBI Agent Lee Harker investigates a series of gruesome deaths connected to a mysterious figure, Longlegs.
  • The film explores themes of family, memory, and the cycle of violence.

Longlegs has been hyped endlessly since secret screenings began earlier this year and, to put it mildly, people have said some crazy things about the latest Osgood Perkins horror movie. From panic attack-inducing screenings to being dubbed the literal manifestation of evil, you would think the writer-director had imbued the celluloid with Satanic prayer himself.

While it’s not quite as scary or disturbing as it’s been made out to be, Longlegs is still a damn good film, unnerving and atmospheric, and ultimately, surprisingly sorrowful. An investigation into a gruesome string of deaths spanning decades turns into an examination of the rot at the center of the nuclear family and how memory is warped into something that can trap us in a dark cycle of violence and horror that can only lead to doom.

Its horror creeps in under the skin

The initial premise of Longlegs is simple enough. FBI Agent Lee Harker (Maika Monroe) is brought onto a case long thought to be ice cold. Over decades, several families have been found dead, apparent murder suicides except for the fact that at each crime scene a birthday card is left behind bearing the signature of Longlegs. Harker, who seems to have some sort of psychic ability, begins to dig deep into the case and what she eventually unearths will have repercussions that reach through time.

Perkins masterfully sets up the film, building dread through a quiet opening scene that explodes into a cacophony of terror. From there, things move relatively quickly — dread mounts as Harker begins to connect the dots between the violent incidents with a near delirious obsession. Nothing phases her — not gruesome crime scenes or cryptic letters with ominous messages. Harker is a bit of a loner anyway; we only see her interact with co-workers, and she’s cautious about how much she shows of herself to them.

Perkins uses masterful sound design and camerawork to create a sense of unease that sinks into the bones and stays there.

The first time we see Harker smile, she’s speaking to her mother Ruth (a deliciously menacing Alicia Witt) and it’s clear their relationship is strained. Harker is alone in her quest to hunt down Longlegs, as we see during a particularly chilling scene where she’s visited by someone while poring over evidence at home. It’s one of the most effective sequences of the film and Perkins uses masterful sound design and camerawork to create a sense of unease that sinks into the bones and stays there.

At times, though, Longlegs feels as if it’s pulling some punches. When we finally meet Cage’s demented serial killer, the film’s tone subtly shifts, but we don’t spend enough time with him to feel truly terrified until it’s too late. Cage’s performance is deranged enough. Longlegs’ voice is one that won’t be forgotten and the way Perkins deploys brief looks at him leading up to the big reveal raises the tension until it snaps like the crack of a broken bone.

Longlegs Isn’t The Movie You Think It Is

Trust me, that’s a good thing

Once that tension breaks, Longlegs loses a bit of the terror it sustained in its first half. One twist is telegraphed too early, while others fall short due to plot points that feel excised from the script. Perkins deals heavily in satanic imagery in Longlegs, perfect for the era and setting in which it takes place, but that’s all that it is. There’s something to be said about mystery and the unknown, especially in a film that uses the unseen as a tool for terror, but leaving too much out feels less like restraint and more like something’s under-cooked.

This doesn’t make Longlegs any less effective, though. Expectations certainly played a role in my initial response to the film, but the more I’ve sat with it, the easier it is to see Perkins’ vision. The marketing for the film is nothing short of brilliant, but it promises something that Longlegs can’t follow through on. It’s not a film pulled from the depths of hell, infused with the kind of violence meant to shock. It’s a slow ride, one that makes us realize that hell isn’t just below us — it can be all around us, in a kindly woman wearing a nun’s habit or a teenage girl recovering from a traumatic incident.


Where To Watch Longlegs: Showtimes & Streaming Status

Nicolas Cage and Maika Monroe headline the 2024 horror movie, and there are options for where to watch Longlegs in theaters or on streaming.

In Longlegs, no one is innocent. Violence doesn’t just happen. It’s a choice that people make and, no matter the motivations, once that kind of evil is put out into the world, it’s not so easily wrangled. Longlegs isn’t a horror movie in the traditional sense. It will leave you feeling grimy, like you’ve just witnessed something that is better left in the filing room cabinets filled with case files and crime scene photos. Despite its plot shortcomings, Perkins develops an aesthetic that is slippery and contradictory — the digital clashes with the analog, the satanic panic of the 70s with the cold, steely practicality of the 90s.

All of this is anchored by Monroe, one of the 21st century’s most underrated scream queens. Harker is a quiet character, not quite shy, just unwilling to open up to people. Using her face alone, Monroe shifts from morbid curiosity to abject terror and emotional devastation, culminating in a killer final shot that encapsulates what’s so unnerving about the movie. Sometimes fear doesn’t immediately register — it can be a seed, planted and cultivated over time and, once a full bloom settles in, it’s hard to shake the fears that grip you.

Longlegs releases in theaters on July 12. It is 101 minutes long and rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images and some language.

Longlegs 2024 Movie Poster

Longlegs is a horror thriller film by writer-director Osgood Perkins. When FBI agent Lee Harker is assigned to a serial killer cold case, their investigation leads them down a rabbit hole riddled with disturbing discoveries and the occult at the center of it all. When the trail of evidence reveals a personal connection, it becomes a race against time to prevent another murder.


  • Longlegs creates an atmosphere of dread that is hard to shake.
  • Maika Monroe gives a stunning performance as Harker Lee.
  • Nicholas Cage’s titular serial killer is a terrifying addition to the canon.
  • Director Osgood Perkins crafts a visual and sonic language that is extremely unnerving.

  • Some plot elements feel under-cooked.
  • The hype and marketing surrounding the movie isn’t exactly representative of what it is, for better and worse.

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