top of page
  • Rev Horror


Dir. Emerald Fennell (2023)

A scholarship student at Oxford is befriended by a rich boy who takes him home to his family estate for the summer.

Every so often, I come across a movie that I really want to review but am not entirely sure that it fits the oeuvre of this site. Despite its initial goal of covering the most disturbing movies ever made almost exclusively, The Horror Revolution has sought to bring horror movies of all shapes and sizes to the attention of the people that love them. While Saltburn can't really be classified as a horror per se, it's definitely a horrifying film, and it's all anyone has been talking about lately for good reason. A mishmash of movies like Cruel Intentions and The Talented Mr. Ripley, Saltburn does a fantastic job of straddling the line between incredibly difficult to watch and utterly batshit insane.

Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) is an underprivileged freshman at Oxford, trying desperately to find his place amongst the rich and powerful students who populate the legendarily stuffy college. He makes friends with one of the more popular (and wealthy) students named Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who eventually invites him to Saltburn, his family estate, for the summer. There he meets the entire Catton family, headed by the aristocratic Sir James Catton (Richard E. Grant) and his ex-model wife Elspeth (Rosamund Pike). The cast of characters are quirky and disgusting in that "we're richer than you and therefore better" sort of way, and there is an air of danger afoot. As events begin to unfold, however, the Catton's begin to wonder if it is Quick, instead, who should be feared.

Saltburn is a very weird film. It's a movie that feels more French Extremity than American streaming, a film that toys with the boundaries between mainstream cinema and good taste. It's hard to watch at times, not for the squeamish or the particularly conservative, though it never fully crosses the line into becoming outright pornographic. Nevertheless, it is easy to see why it has been so shocking to American audiences. It's rare to see a movie that puts these scenes so outwardly on display, and it's quite a brave effort at refusing to play along with social norms. It's beautifully shot, a movie that feels like an awards show darling while being jaw-droppingly intense as well. New French Extremity would perhaps be a good place to put it were it not so glaringly British.

The acting performances are top notch. Keoghan is delightfully deranged, and its easy to see why he is becoming such a decorated young actor. In fact, all of the performers do an incredible job, though it is Pike who particularly stands out beyond her peers (except for Keoghan, of course). It's an off-putting films in a lot of ways, and the actors all do a fantastic job of embracing the grit and grime in their roles. The film is very much arthouse, and it allows its characters time to really roll around in its sandbox world while still maintaining its loosely-paced thriller facade. Writer/director Emerald Fennell shines in her sophomore effort, delivering a film that is near-perfectly crafted and delivered.

The pacing is really the only major issue with the film. It drags at times, though its hard to really find that as a fault in a film whose very name promises a slow burn. It's also a hard film to classify as a whole: you may laugh at times, but it is certainly not a comedy. It's not horror, despite certainly being horrific, and it's full-fledged drama except for when it isn't. It's absurdly delivered subversion, both of its genre tropes and its social mores. It's a work of art, but closer akin to the Piss Christ than the Mona Lisa. It's definitely cringe-worthy at times and will occasionally leave you wide-eyed and open-mouthed, though it will insist that it is perhaps your own stuffiness that is to blame (it's not). In the end, it feels like a new breed of cinema, despite its Pasolini feel and subject matter.

It's easy to see why a film like this fascinates the public. It refuses to pull punches, continually causing its audience to question if it will go past the line before rocketing across. It's messed up, to be sure, but it's also strangely beautiful. I don't mean to be continually singing the film's praises by any means, as this will be a movie that turns off as many as it turns on. It is, however, a brilliantly made film with nary a lesson to be learned within. It was right up my alley, a film that makes its audience feel as dirty as its characters. For my money, that's a good thing.

Who this movie is for: Disturbing movie fans, Slow burn lovers, People who enjoy a nice relaxing bath

Bottom line: Saltburn is not for the faint of heart or the particularly sensible. It's a film that feels very much in the realm of New French Extremity while being more tuned for an American audience. The actors are fantastic, the writing and direction is phenomenal, and it's a movie that is very much Oscar bait while refusing to bend from the bizarre enough to actually win the prize. It's being recommended to people all over social media, and while it's not going to be enjoyed by a lot of the people who watch it, it's a fairly good (and relatively tame) introduction to disturbing cinema for those who haven't been exposed. Give it a watch on Amazon Prime and let me know what you think. Just make sure your more Conservative loved ones aren't in the room.

Featured Reviews

Featured Interviews

bottom of page