Home » Netflix’s spooky Rebecca adaptation revisited: Is it actually that poor? (Indeed)

Netflix’s spooky Rebecca adaptation revisited: Is it actually that poor? (Indeed)

Netflix's spooky Rebecca adaptation revisited: Is it really that bad? (Yes)

Armie Hammer and Lily James in the 2020 Netflix adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, directed by Ben Wheatley


Previous year, Netflix took us to Manderley once more, only it wasn’t a aspiration. With the assist of Lily James and Armie Hammer, the streaming support resurrected the haunted property of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel Rebecca from the ashes just in time for Halloween 2020. And though it truly is not a quite scary movie (particularly when when compared with the Oscar-profitable 1940 Alfred Hitchcock movie adaptation), it has the likely to deliver a chill down your backbone.

The tale of Rebecca — no matter whether the novel, the Hitchcock adaptation or this 2020 version directed by Ben Wheatley — is a little bit of a Rorschach exam. Its genre is truly quite slippery: Romance? Horror? Coming of age? Is spooky time even the correct time to watch? (Is any period the suitable time to look at?)

Even pinpointing a villain is a deceptively elusive endeavor. Probably it really is the ghoulish head housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (played here by a shade-throwing Kristin Scott Thomas) who makes the anonymous protagonist’s married daily life hell. Or possibly it can be the mercurial Maxim de Wintertime, a part that looks created for Armie Hammer even with predating his delivery by virtually 50 years, as a probably-murderer who’s just as inaccessible to his 2nd spouse as he is to viewers. It could even be the eponymous Rebecca, Maxim’s lifeless spouse whose ghost serves severe “not like other girls” vibes.

Or potentially Lily James‘ unnamed narrator and protagonist, identified only as “the 2nd Mrs. de Wintertime,” isn’t really as virtuous as she seems. 

The story is considerably less of a whodunit than a who-really should-we-root-for (and how terrible should really we truly feel about our option?) and Wheatley’s new adaptation makes an attempt to more complicate the viewer’s moral acrobatics. Much more unsettling than truly scary, Rebecca’s horrors are cerebral as an alternative of visceral, generating it a excellent applicant for any roundup of terrifying-but-not-as well-terrifying Halloween films

Rebecca, streaming on Netflix, is in fantastic organization inside of the “new residence, new complications” horror tradition (The Amityville Horror, The Shining, Paranormal Action) or with 2019’s marital bait-and-change Completely ready or Not, in that what to begin with appears to be like happily at any time after is actually the start out of an unpleasant surprise. In Rebecca’s scenario, the serious horror is that marriage is offered to ladies as an aspiration when it can be basically more of a necessary evil and the tale unfolds with the sinister repercussions of the narrator’s irrevocable alternatives.

The appreciate affair begins with a trace of this paternalism when the adorably unsophisticated narrator is turned absent from a extravagant restaurant terrace on the sunlight-dappled shores of southern France. Maxim arrives gallantly to her rescue (with a skeezy whiff of Hammer’s signature Winklevii) by inviting her to share his table. He finds her gaucheness charming as she copies a lunch buy she’d listened to from the hotel’s other abundant patrons, requesting “des huîtres, une douzaine” — a dozen oysters — for breakfast. 

Maxim seduces the narrator — and maybe even the viewers, based on your familiarity with movie star news — with some really hot, extremely sandy premarital beach romps, but the movie quickly darkens as James’ narrator marries and then follows her progressively smarmy new spouse to his sprawling English estate. Gloomy Manderley dampens their newlywed bliss: The unrefined narrator commits various fake pas as recently mounted mistress of the home, Maxim’s honeymoon jauntiness evaporates and Mrs. Danvers makes it apparent the 2nd Mrs. de Winter will only at any time take next location to her beloved Rebecca, whose memory permeates every single nook, cranny and mysteriously shut off home in the castle.

“I will not think in ghosts,” the narrator asserts prior to arriving at Manderley. But she soon discovers the house is haunted: by unresolved grief, or a little something darker. The narrator’s hairbrush even now has strands of Rebecca’s dim hairs nestled amongst the bristles. Her raincoat pocket homes a lipstick-smudged handkerchief embroidered with a crazy R monogram. Even her name just isn’t her possess: Though many brides battle to get utilized to the Mrs. moniker, the second Mrs. de Wintertime must subsume the same name as her husband’s shed like.



Like 2017’s Get Out and 2019’s Parasite (even though frankly undeserving to be pointed out in the similar sentence), Rebecca serves up a spoonful of horror to make the social commentary go down. And like any Gothic film well worth its cobwebs, Rebecca gestures at the supernatural while remaining firmly rooted in the horrors of actual everyday living. The film’s spooky features are manifested by the chilling fact of heterosexual marriage in the hyper-stratified globe of early 20th century England. 

Netflix’s adaptation is campy and, at instances, cheesy — and you commence to get the feeling the director isn’t in on the joke. There are eerie aspiration sequences, shifty-eyed maids and a guy in a courtroom alleging murrrdah! Maxim is offered a new sleepwalking habit, a spooky-frightening habits with an utterly scientific clarification. There is certainly even a carnivalesque masquerade scene that prospects the viewers to problem, for just a instant, whether this genuinely is a ghost tale. But the scariest matter in the movie is a cruel fact look at from Mrs. Danvers: “He’ll go away you, he’ll divorce you. And then what’ll you do? You won’t be able to remarry now,” she taunts. If you can glimpse past the film’s histrionics, the 2nd Mrs. de Winter’s plight is in fact deserving of the horror treatment method. But that is a credit history to novelist du Maurier, not Wheatley, who manages to generally sanitize the thrills and chills from his resource substance.

Wheatley’s adaptation does consider pains to make the narrator’s struggles far more legible to a 21st century audience, doubling down on the inescapable dread of shortage — that for the reason that there’s only one particular Maxim de Wintertime, there can only be one particular Mrs. de Winter season. 

At nearly every flip, girls stymie just about every other. The 2020 Mrs. Van Hopper, the narrator’s employer in France — a cackling Ann Dowd — actively attempts to thwart her employee’s budding romance, in which the Mrs. Van Hopper of the Hitchcock movie is clueless. Mrs. Danvers, whose machinations in the novel concentrate on the narrator specifically, does a single superior in the film, rather tricking other women of all ages into doing her soiled perform. Female servants revel in the narrator’s stumbles up society’s ladder. The shortage of methods is a financial a single, but the playing cards are dealt based on gender. It’s a zero-sum sport.

So who is the undesirable person in this article? Hitchcock’s adaptation of Rebecca famously altered the ending in compliance with the moral suggestions of Hollywood’s Hays code, generating any endeavor to detect the story’s villain even a lot more precarious. But Wheatley’s adaptation crowns a villain deserving of the antihero era in its remaining body. 

With no spoiling just about anything, let’s just say the palpable reduction on the narrator’s face in the Netflix adaptation, upon the revelation of the circumstances of Rebecca’s loss of life, is the most chilling section of the movie. With this 3rd-act twist, she sheds the cloak of the naïf like a butterfly emerging furiously from its chrysalis. Schadenfreude personified — monsterified.