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PET (2016)

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Flick tells the grim tale of Seth (Dominic Monaghan), an introverted and emotionally disturbed young man who works at an L.A. dog pound. Seth sees pretty blonde Holly (Ksenia Solo) on the bus everyday, a girl he has been crushing on since school. Holly doesn’t remember him, but he pursues her anyway even when she shows no interest. He follows her to work and when she goes out and when he is finally, and quite harshly, rejected for his stalker-ish behavior, Seth hatches a plan to kidnap Holly and hold her in a cage in an abandoned room beneath his work place. But Seth may be in for more than he bargained for, as Holly is not what he expects and has a few dark secrets of her own. Seth soon finds out that while Holly may be in a cage, he may not be as in control as he believes.

Directed by Carles Torrens from Jeremy Slater’s script, this is a tense, disturbing and sometimes surprisingly brutal thriller about a damaged young man taking the wrong girl captive. The concept of a kidnap scenario going awry or a hostage being more than one bargained for is not new, but it is presented well here, with a few twists of it’s own and thus works beyond it’s familiar story. At first we are led to believe this is a simple tale of a pretty girl in the clutches of a deranged individual, a tale of mad love, but Torrnes slowly let’s us see that Holly is not a helpless damsel. In fact she has some loose screws of her own and Seth’s purpose of bringing his object of affection here may have a deeper agenda than just puppy love beneath the dog pound. We get a reveal halfway through that takes this in another direction and totally changes our perception of Holly quite a bit. It turns this into a something far more complex than simply an innocent hostage trying to outwit her crazed captor. Let’s just say things get delightfully nasty and leave it at that.  There are a few plot holes, such as Seth actually thinking holding her captive at work was a solid idea and a few others that involve sensitive plot developments, that will not be spoiled here. Otherwise, all the way through this self advertised ‘love story’ director Torrens keeps an atmosphere of tension and there are some disturbing developments that change our perspective and possibly our sympathies. It’s a disturbing little thriller that succeeds far more than it doesn’t.

We have a small but very effective cast, especially our leads. Dominic Monaghan does a difficult job of keeping Seth a bit tragic and sad despite his disturbing plot to kidnap his obsession. His early pursuit of her is a bit creepy but also earns some sympathy at his complete awkwardness. Once he accomplishes his deed, he keeps Seth from being totally villainous though still quite disturbed. He’s not quite an outright monster and when the tables start to turn we are not completely unsympathetic at the desperate young man having made a big mistake. Ksenia Solo really shines as Holly with a decidedly more complex character. At first she is just a pretty blonde with her own life and no time for Seth’s awkward pursuit. She is in the midst of a break-up herself and this only amplifies the effect of his creepy methods to get her attention. We like and sympathize with her, especially when she finds herself in a basement cage. Then the actress slowly transforms Holly into someone else. Someone we are not expecting and someone who is possibly far scarier than Seth. He is socially inept and emotionally disturbed as she where might just be…? Solo pulls it off wonderfully. There is also a supporting roles by Jennette McCurdy as Holly’s friend Claire and Da’Vone McDonald as Seth’s co-worker Nate who starts to get suspicious of Seth’s odd behavior and showing up at work at off hours.

So, the flick is not perfect and the story at it’s core has been done before. But this is a case of a skilled director and some unexpected twists from it’s writer that elevate it above the familiar. Add to that, two leads who really give it their all and you have a disturbing thriller that can be surprisingly brutal and brutally surprising despite a familiar base story. It’s a psychological showdown between two individuals, one who is disturbingly obsessed and the other…well, you’ll find out.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 cages that are not the best way to impress a girl.