There are a handful of moments in THOROUGHBREDS where we as a viewer shouldn’t laugh. The moments are intentional on the creator’s end, but we feel guilty about our chuckle. I won’t say what it is particularly about these scenes that are funny, but I state them up front because much of THOROUGHBREDS is an attempt to falsely charm us. It comes from the director’s ability to subvert genre tropes and spin them together in a unique pastiche about America’s youth, their current mental state, and the dangers of misguided empathy.
The obvious comparisons to THOROUGHBREDS are HEATHERS and AMERICAN PSYCHO. That’s because of the psychology on display between the two female leads of the film, Lily (Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Cooke). Lily comes from a well-to-do family that’s structured her life around being successful to the point where she stresses out over a potential internship. Amanda on the other hand is a social outcast, recently charged with animal cruelty after personally euthanizing her sickly horse with a knife.
The two used to be friends and seem to have drifted far apart in their adolescence, but it doesn’t take long to see that they both need and want each other in a sinister way. Amanda needs someone to connect with so that she can get in touch with her own humanity and Lily needs someone to help her lose hers. It’s like a yin and yang scenario, but nothing good can come from those two becoming complementary pieces to one grand, insidious idea.
The awkward laughter you might experience comes during prolonged silences after an exclamation or statement involving the girl’s murderous ambitions. There’s usually a sense of underlying silliness in dark comedies, like FARGO or IN BRUGES, but THOROUGHBREDS is very coy. Everything in it is inherently ridiculous, but the setting feels genuine, the characters feel genuine, and these teenagers of America are very disarming. Lily is cute and likable, and Amanda is blunt and mature.
Watching the two characters and actresses feed off each other is the main drive of the film, but no one else in this cast can quite live up to their dark charisma. This is Anton Yelchin’s last film and his character serves as a forgettable stepping stone. The teen’s parents are wallpaper until the plot needs them. There is palpable tension when the parents join the scene because we’ve seen what’s being schemed, but we know that nothing will happen until the very end, if at all.
As I’ve stated, THOROUGHBREDS does a fine job blending themes and ideas into a cohesive thriller, but it may have benefited from doing less. The characters are enthralling because they say very little, leaving their pathos up to interpretation. However, the movie can’t replicate the characters at its center, finding itself running on fumes through several moments in the movie. I’m not going to risk saying THOROUGHBREDS would have worked better as a short because the 92 minutes you spend with these two girls is a guilty pleasure for those with sick enough sensibilities.
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 2:39:1) The blu-ray really amplifies this wonderfully shot movie. We get a great presentation that makes great use of vibrant colors in a bleak film.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) Nothing wrong with the audio.
Deleted Scenes (1:54): Only two scenes. Nothing meaty or interesting.
The Look of THOROUGHBREDS (3:39): An incredibly short feature that attempts to condense everything, without doing a good job at giving you a decent behind-the-scenes look at any one thing. It quickly goes over writing, filming, characters and the crew.
Character Profiles (6:07): This is a more in-depth examination of each character through the eyes of the cast. The feature digs into Lily, Amanda, Tim and Mark. While shedding a little bit more light, it doesn’t give us enough information to fully dissect these characters.