Personal Shopper puts so much effort into not being your typical supernatural horror film that it almost forgets it’s a supernatural horror film.
It opens with a familiar scene, a young attractive woman (Kristen Stewart in this case) wanders around a scary old house, following the sound of dripping taps and creaky door handles. But this time, she wants to find a ghoul, even calling out its name, willing it to appear and scare the bejesus out her.
Her character Maureen, a self-described medium, has recently lost her twin brother Lewis, a man who was so convinced there is another realm that he promised to send her a sign when he gets there. So Maureen hangs around Paris, the city where he died, working as a personal shopper to a monstrous socialite, keeping watch for his supernatural message.
Directed by Olivier Assayas (who also wrote and directed Stewart in The Clouds of Sils Maria), the story is predictable and daft, but constructed with such studied Euro-cool that it feels a bit like watching The Girl on the Train directed by Lars Von Trier.
Stewart is the beating heart of this pretty, cold affair. Her despondent delivery – so rankling in the Twilight films – is delicious here, especially when she’s delivering deadpan absurdities such as “she just vomited up this ectoplasm and left.”
Stewart’s phone also puts in a solid performance; she watches seances on it, uses it for research and even has a full 20-minute iMessage conversation on it, leaving the viewer to peer at what’s happening on a small screen on a big screen.
Stewart’s performance elevates a very ordinary film into something intriguing, but anyone expecting a supernatural horror will come out with a bad case of buyer’s remorse.