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Charlie Kaufman’s new movie looks like the horror version of Meet the Parents

The Eternal Sunshine writer teams with Netflix for a creepy new drama

Charlie Kaufman has a lot on his mind. A lot about the mind, on his mind. He minds the mind, then mines the mind for stories about what goes on in our minds. He’s a mindful miner of mines, if you will.

Kaufman took us inside the head of “MALKOVICH” in Being John Malkovich, let his stream of consciousness flow by writing himself into Adaptation, erased Jim Carrey’s memories in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, turned one man’s anxiety into an alternate universe in his directorial debut Synecdoche, New York, then staged an existential puppet show with Anomalisa. Now he’s back with a brand new movie, and wouldn’t you know it, the action drops us right into the unspoken narration of our main character, who feels trapped in a struggling relationship.

Produced by Netflix, i’m thinking of ending things loosely adapts Iain Reid’s bestselling novel. The tone, true to the book, is downright terrifying — which is more in the writer-director’s wheelhouse than he gets credit for. Before modern horror films like Hereditary preyed on our senses with mental strife, Kaufman staged magical realist chaos in everyday corners of New York City. Joel’s life spins out of control when his deleted memories come flooding back. Caden Cotard, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s unraveling playwright in Synecdoche, New York, takes over a warehouse-sized theater space to build what’s ultimately a Saw trap for his introspection. Kaufman makes scary movies. This one looks the scariest.

Here’s the official premise for i’m thinking of ending things, which Netflix describes as “exploration of regret, longing and the fragility of the human spirit”:

Despite second thoughts about their relationship, a young woman (Jessie Buckley) takes a road trip with her new boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to his family farm. Trapped at the farm during a snowstorm with Jake’s mother (Toni Collette) and father (David Thewlis), the young woman begins to question the nature of everything she knew or understood about her boyfriend, herself, and the world.

In Kaufman tradition, there’s surely some surprises bubbling under the surface of his unsettling twist on Meet the Parents. We’ll know more when the film premieres on Sept. 4.

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