This thriller is all about mood, and it's successful in building suspense through enigmatic characters, gory action, eerie music, and a rainy wooded setting. We're introduced to title character Lou from low angles and often within frames, making the statuesque Janney appear even more imposing, but also potentially boxed in. Details to explain this, and other characters' actions, are only slowly revealed, allowing the film to focus on action but keep the viewer curious about motivation.
The constant rain infuses the Pacific Northwest setting with a damp, muddy greyness. Indigenous fauna is also used for effect, from a broken butterfly to predator birds and animals devouring other animals. Eerie music and regular thunderclaps add to the tension.
A film like this can succeed in ambiance but still fail if the actors aren't up to the job, which in this case requires emotional as well as physical performances. Janney brings gravitas to every role, and she's interestingly cast against type here as an irascible and fierce loner living alone in the woods with her dog. It's a role typically written for men (think Eastwood, Costner, or Neeson), but it has a uniquely female twist here (no spoilers). Smollett is also believable as a woman trying to escape her past and build a future for herself and her young daughter.
The characters' backgrounds and the historical events alluded to in the film could have been exploited more, and some gratuitously violent scenes skipped.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.
Image courtesy of Netflix.