Anna Rose Holmer’s visually striking debut film offers a lot to like, not the least of which includes its unique setting in an inner-city athletic complex. A sort of Suspiria by way of Creed, The Fits follows reserved tomboy Toni, as she switches her focus from learning boxing with her brother to joining the gym’s award-winning dance team. Resented by her brother and his friends for leaving the boxing program, and yet not fully accepted by members of the dance team, Toni remains always on the periphery: present, but never included.
Holmer uses Toni’s role as detached observer to heighten the viewers’ discomfort when the titular fits begin. The fits affect one girl at a time, and seem to only happen to older girls; what seems to be part of an elaborate dance routine erupts into something like a seizure or passionate ecstasy. Not only is the cause of the epidemic never explained, but viewers rarely get a good look at it happening, even sometimes forced to watch through characters’ cell phone cameras.
This constant obscuring of events keeps us tied closely to Toni’s perspective and, as one might expect from a pre-teen girl, she’s not sure how she feels about it. On the one hand, the girls begin to see these attacks as a rite of passage, thus making them one more thing to separate Toni from her peers. On the other hand, they are scary, stripping the victims of the bodily control Toni has worked so hard to maintain,
The result is a truly unique film, one that never decides between horror and coming of age, but keeps mutating and experimenting with the same mix of surety and vulnerability as its main character.