(Warning: Review is very spoiler heavy). Sorry, Rob Zombie--your origin story for the monstrous Michael Myers pales in comparison to that of the teenager named Kevin. This movie is told all in flashback, after Kevin has massacred children at his school and two members of his family, with the only remaining one being his troubled mother Eva (Tilda Swinton). The movie focuses on her, living alone after a feeble attempt to restart her life with a depressing apartment and a soul-crushing job, remembering all of the signs of Kevin's sociopathic tendencies. You'll have to draw your own conclusions, though. Was Kevin a sociopath from the start? Should she accept any blame for his behavior? Is there anything they could have done? The movie plays out scarier than most any horror flick because it lives within gray areas that modern science and years of psychoanalysis can't explain.
Kevin and Eva are in opposition from the minute he left her womb and should have been cuddly but was too busy screaming nonstop. Of course no one locks up a baby just because he cries a lot. But as Kevin ages, Eva suspects that something is very, very wrong--he won't play with her, he openly defies and sabotages her, and always looks at her with a sour look plastered on his face. Her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) is no help, claiming things like Kevin's lack of interest in potty training at 7 years old is completely normal. But the doubt that lives in Eva's mind keeps growing, and their combative relationship worsens. She is not exactly a ray of sunshine herself--she even breaks his arm out of frustration. But is that enough to awaken homicidal tendencies in another human being? Her second child, that she probably had just so she could hang out with someone in her family that she likes, seemed fine. Of course, Kevin may or may not have caused her to lose an eye, but once again, it's all circumstantial.
Almost as punishment for standing idly by while she detachedly pondered all of these disturbing maybes, Eva's life after the shooting becomes a purgatory. She scrubs red paint off her house that was thrown there by the victims of her son's rampage, and her sad, empty kitchen cabinets serve as a mirror of her soul. Even though she's still alive, Kevin essentially murdered her that night. I found myself wondering why she didn't just move, where people didn't know her, but that would cause her to be proactive and move on. So far in her existence, she seems to be content just standing idly by and hoping her instincts are wrong. Plus, it seems as though her guilt is much worse than the neighborhood's fury anyway.
This movie fascinated me from start to finish. The complexities of the human brain are a never-ending source of wonder, and they are only matched by the relationship between parents and children. Swinton is electric in all her passive glory, especially when she's head-to-head with Jasper Newell as the young Kevin. Ezra Miller's teenage Kevin is less scary, since being able to communicate as an adult immediately made the character feel more like a Patrick Bateman impression from American Psycho. The movie is at its best when it uneasily makes you weigh nature versus nurture, and will probably cause more than one person to reinvest in birth control.