disneydreamdiary’s review published on Letterboxd:
Ritual abuse and snuff filmmaking are two of those things where it's basically impossible to tell if anyone actually cares about them or takes them seriously. Any media that actually broach them as a subject like Eyes Wide Shut or Videodrome also lampshade them to such a degree as to basically gaslight the audience, potentially because Hollywood is founded in part upon such abuses, or because they're rarer than moral panic would suppose. Even in case they're as widespread as Pizzagate theorized, what are you even gonna do? Mob justice is extinct and elite child molesters are invulnerable to cancellation campaigns and due process.
People on the far right and left will blame abstracts like capitalism or degeneracy, and hence this movie as angie points out can only tackle the theme of ritual abuse abstractly, survivors either being too scant to tell their own stories or given enough threats and hush money to never make an attempt, or again, too rare to be a demographic. What's more ritual abuse is rolled into regular child molestation when the former is more systematized, and plenty of people argue that being raped is worse than being killed, which raises the question about instances where both occur. On the other hand, maybe Epstein was just some guy who liked screwing jailbait and this mythology sprung around what in actual fact is the comparatively minor offense of a few hundred cases of statutory rape, which is probably the most likely scenario.
The kindest thing I can say about this movie is that it at least captures this sense of cognitive dissonance without really resolving anything, and the fact that its director could make something better in the future, who knows. Mainstream filmmakers nowadays are expected to basically hit it out of the park for RottenTomatoes on their first go and then fall into complacency when they do, which is a model of artistic culture where Kubrick made Fear and Desire twelve times instead of improving. Most of the hot young upstart directors like Aster, Eggers, and Peele are still at this stage in my opinion. We do them a disservice by being too nice.
To that end I'll say this film also falls into an endless slew of sensationalist traumaploitation movies where people make stuff up about what it's actually like to live through horrific scenarios, when in actual fact trauma is more like getting tricked and realizing the horror later, so the events really shouldn't be presented horrifically. The only genuine empathy audiences can feel for the traumatized in my opinion would come simply by traumatizing them (Kuma Miko, End of Evangelion, Mother 2-3 and Danganronpa did this which is why they're so based). It's telling that this film succeeds most when the ritual sacrifice is treated more like an ornament to the lesbian tryst, a kind of aphrodisiac or comedic prop. Too often is "write what you know" suggested when it should just be "write what you learned," because no one really knows anything, especially not about Epstein, except that he was murdered and fucked kids. May he rest in piss.