- Sigourney Weaver as Helen Hudson
- Holly Hunter as M.J. Monahan
- Dermot Mulroney as Reuben Goetz
- Harry Connick, Jr. as Daryll Lee Cullum
For some reason, I always think that Copycat is an underrated movie that deserves more recognition. After all it’s a well crafted and creepy thriller with style and excellent acting . I’m hoping with this review I can bring it to the attention of more people. Anyway, back to my review of this 90s chiller.
Helen Hudson is an intelligent criminal psychologist who often gives lectures on the subject of serial killers in colleges and universities. On one such visit, a traumatic event befalls her. One of her former patients, the highly disturbed Daryll Lee Cullum attacks her in the bathroom and nearly kills her. As a result of this brutal attempt on her life, Helen becomes severely agoraphobic and seals herself away within her high-tech apartment. Her only contact with the outside world is a sympathetic friend and a computer. Meanwhile, a spate of grisly murders of young women has been alarming the San Francisco area as there are no leads. The murders come to the attention of Helen, who calls the police suggesting that the slayings are connected. The police originally write her off, but the sharp head of the investigation M.J. Monahan thinks that Helen may be on to something. Along with her good-natured and eager partner Reuben Goetz, she enlists the help of Helen, who can be difficult because of her traumatic experiences that have left her suffering from immense panic attacks and horrible dreams, but is very sharp when it comes to the mind of a killer. As their investigation goes on and the murders become more brutal, Helen unearths that the killer is taking influence from notorious serial killers when committing these acts. Yet the killer cottons onto the fact that Helen is investigating and very soon she is top of his list of victims . And he makes this fact known by ways of creepy emotional torture and cryptic messages. Can Helen, M.J., and Reuben manage to unearth this twisted killer before his campaign of terror reaches the traumatised Helen?
What really drew me into Copycat was the attention to detail and style of it. There is a real sense of creepy menace as we are made, at a number of points to observe from the killer’s perspective as he plots his next murder. The disorientating camerawork when Helen is present is an excellent touch that gets to the heart of her intense agoraphobia and how she is worn down by it. Director Jon Amiel knows how to shoot a scene and keep us on the edge of our seats as Helen comes to see that she is intended target for the next killing as he toys with her emotionally by sending her disturbing messages and imagery via computer. And what a climax this movie has with nail-biting terror ever-present as Helen has to overcome her fear to survive a face to face encounter with the twisted killer. There are those who watch Copycat and think that it offers nothing new in the genre of cat and mouse thrillers but there is one excellent thing that it has in its arsenal, character development. Thanks to an inventive script, the characters are no mere cardboard cut outs but characters with a lot of dimension, especially Helen and M.J, who both have multitudes of layers to them. A score from Christopher Young reverberates with flourishes of menace and ambience as the investigation into the copycat killer takes a good few turns and becomes more terrifying.
Sigourney Weaver, who ranks as one of my favourite actresses, is emotionally convincing and vivid as the terrified Helen. With Weaver in the role, Helen becomes a woman who may be broken down by her fears, but still has her intellect and wit to stop her from completely falling into despair. It’s safe to say that Sigourney Weaver delivers sterling work once more. Holly Hunter is also highly impressive at portraying the inspector on the case. Coming off as warm and cheerful, but with an unmistakable steel and determination beneath the surface, Hunter embodies the many facets of M.J. with aplomb, creating a well-rounded character that she inhabits beautifully. Dermot Mulroney has the boyish charm and good humour that is ideal for the role of supporting inspector on the case of these brutal murders. In the main villainous role Harry Connick, Jr. gives off slimy and sleazy creepiness as the man whose attack on Helen left her the way she is and who is also called in to help as he may know something about this copycat killer. When he is on the screen, it is chilling to watch as he taunts Helen once more via a link to his prison cell, all the while revealing what he knows about the killer.
Disturbingly effective and bolstered by strong cast and style, Copycat is one nerve-shredding suspense thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat from the get go.