As director Sam Hargrave recently told Polygon about the 21-minute no-cuts fight sequence in Netflix action movie Extraction 2, one-shot sequences — or “oners,” as the industry calls them — have become signature flashy moves that let filmmakers show off their ambition and their technical chops. “You as the audience get to go with the character on a journey in real time, and hopefully by the end of it, be exhausted, just as exhausted as the character is,” he said.
That’s part of the premise behind A24’s Medusa Deluxe, a gaudy, showy, gloriously energized murder mystery that plays out in just a few extended takes. The movie, which played festivals like Fantastic Fest and Fantasia in late 2022, immediately caught audiences’ attention with its dizzying visuals, which take the camera wandering up and down the many floors of a dilapidated old building as a group of British hairdressers and models gathers for a small regional hairstyle competition, where a front-running participant winds up murdered — and tellingly, scalped.
Part RuPaul’s Drag Race, part highly textured exploration of a subculture, part extremely dry British comedy (movies like Calendar Girls come to mind), Medusa Deluxe is a lot of fun in part because it’s just so specific. The stakes could hardly be lower than “Who’s going to win Hairdresser of the Year at this small-time competition,” but the characters act like they’re vying for Olympic medals — except they do it by producing lavishly excessive hairstyles. Meanwhile, first-time feature writer-director Thomas Hardimann sends his camera wandering between them, tracking their rivalries and affairs, their breakdowns and their blowups.
It’s a deliriously messy movie that sometimes feels like hanging out inside an immersive theater event as it’s happening, and it all builds to a wild finale. The first trailer emphasizes the story more than the style, but this is a movie people are going to want to check out more for the feel of being in the middle of this wild mix than for the murder mystery itself.
Medusa Deluxe will hit theaters in limited release and arrive on VOD on Aug. 11.