I’ve been on a scary movie binge, but this is one of the most terrifying films I’ve seen. There are clues throughout the film the same way there are deaths throughout a horror movie. As things progress, we’re made aware who is really innocent. In retrospect, how obvious everything is; how plainly it’s presented — it will chill you to the core.
The socialite society is a metaphor for how any power system functions. There are leaders; there are black sheep; there are those whom are respected without being admired — and every single person believes themselves to be on their own path, isolated from the rest of the system. Yet, it’s so obvious where everyone fits and how easily everyone can be placed into a niche.
Newland feels guilt for the entire film and the viewer is led to believe he’s malicious, when in-fact, his desire is the most innocent of all. May is revealed to be the devil incarnate: never missing the bullseye; maliciously gossiping of others; deliberate emotional distance; passive-aggressively telling Newland (moreorless), “Oh, do say hi to Ellen for me.” These are all signs placed within the film, advising both Newland and the viewer just what’s what.
There’s nothing hidden in this world more than how others perceive you, and it’s so easy to manipulate that which is oblivious. May represents evil as a force; their society, the hellish glamor they are all bound to. The “scarlet” room is red for a reason; the manors are isolated fortresses; it always seems to be winter — Newland has no escape. The wedlock scene plays like Newland becoming aware he’s gravely ill: the room spins as all potential life rushes by; he is merely swept along.
The most violent Scorsese film, indeed.