The Fits is a really unique sort of horror film. It’s not really a strict genre film at all – one of its strengths, in fact – but definitely belongs to the realm of psychological film. I see echoes of Polanski (but I see those everywhere), Zulawksi, and Kieslowski in here. So…very Polish
Some very slight SPOILERS below.
But seriously, I really loved Anna Rose Holmer’s debut. Royalty Hightower plays Toni, a young girl who spends most of her time in a boxing gym with her brother, though she really wants to join the dancing team. When she finally does, various members of the team start inexplicably having violent fits.
Holmer doesn’t really hide that The Fits is metaphor for coming-of-age. Plenty of the dialogue just lays it all on the line:
“I just want to know how it feels…it’ll happen to us anyway.”
“It hasn’t happened to the boys.”
“It’s all in your head.”
“It only happens to the older girls.”
It’d probably be too on-the-nose to make this about a specific event, but it’s a beautifully orchestrated way to show how Toni is wrestling with the trials and tribulations of growing up as a woman, especially when surrounded, at least at first, by men.
Then there’s the visual evidence. The fits that the younger girls have are shorter and less frightening. They don’t linger. Toni takes off her (self-pierced) earrings and tries to flake off her nail polish as though warding away the things they foretell.
And still, despite none of this being particularly couched, The Fits is transcendent. Part of that is thanks to Hightower’s performance, though it’s really the supporting cast that makes this thing click. Da’Sean Minor and Alexis Neblett come to mind as standouts.
I wonder what makes a film “psychological horror.” I suppose it’d be that there’s something going on internally that is then externalized in a way that could be deemed frightening. And so The Fits…fits it to a T.
Much of that is realized in the climax, a hallucinatory dance sequence where Toni is both happy and eerily made-up. Her plastic smile is at once joyful and grim:
It’s a perfect representation of her struggle.
The Fits, as mentioned, represents the plights of the older girls differently. Here’s one of those scenes, where the horror isn’t represented similarly to Toni’s finale:
Adding to this horror is Holmer’s slight treatise on bystanders and social media:
No one moves to help her. Instead, everyone’s on their phones. It’s non-intervention, making the moment that much scarier.
The films ends in a gorgeously choreographed moment, just preceding the aforementioned dance sequence; it’s a great segue in that it fluidly moves from the real to the surreal to the surreal and frightening. This is driving me nuts: what movie am I thinking of that also has a dream-dance sequence towards the end? It’s on the tip of my tongue…I know there’s one in The Big Lebowski, and there’s the awesome (non-dream) sequence in Girlhood. The strange one in Southland Tales…it’s none of those.