Metacritic (3/10), Letterboxd (1.5/5), Imdb.com (3/10), TMDB.com (1.5/5)

Sometimes you come across a filmmaker whose works you just don’t like. And now, after two features in, I can honestly say that about writer-director Emerald Fennell. I didn’t care much for her debut outing, “Promising Young Woman” (2020), and I can say the same (and more) about her follow-up effort, “Saltburn.” This alleged thriller about a seemingly awkward but quietly sinister Oxford student (Barry Keoghan) who ingratiates himself into a family of wealthy English aristocrats features a story and characters about whom, quite frankly, I couldn’t care less. (Think “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (2017) with a cast of eccentric old money cronies and a wolf in sheep’s clothing.) This assemblage of utterly reprehensible characters living utterly reprehensible lives and zealously adhering to utterly reprehensible values fails to engender viewer empathy, interest or even connection. Much of the narrative is predictable and glacially paced, incorporates sequences that are included for little more than forced shock value, features monodimensional and blatantly obvious (almost trite) character development, and frequently stumbles in attempts at humor that are wedged in largely for the sake of convenience or calculatedly timed comic relief. It’s the kind of picture that prompts regular looks at one’s watch to see how much more one must endure and delivers welcome sighs of relief when the end finally comes. What’s more, given the combined talent pool for this production, it’s a genuine shame to see the likes of Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan and Richard E. Grant relegated to supporting roles in which their abilities are sorely underused. And then there’s the excessively hammy performance of Keoghan, who’s quite obviously (and knowingly) acting and not disappearing into the bona fide portrayal of a character. In all, this offering feels like a picture that tries awfully hard to see how much it can get away with, especially when seeking to invoke dropped jaws among audience members, much as this director’s cinematic predecessor attempted to do. Save your money, and don’t waste your time on this vastly overrated release from a vastly overrated filmmaker.