WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE (2018)
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Jules (Brittany Allen) and Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) are a married couple going up to Jackie’s lakeside family cabin in the woods to celebrate their one year anniversary. Once there, Jules starts to find out that Jackie is not the person she thought she married. In fact, Jules has married a monster and will soon be fighting for her life against the person she loves most.
Intense and brutal flick is written and directed by Colin Minihan, who from Grave Encounters to Extraterrestrial to It Stains The Sands Red to this, is getting better and better as a filmmaker and it’s a mystery why more people aren’t talking about him. Minihan weaves a disturbing tale of lies, betrayal and murder as a young woman finds out her wife is a dangerous psychopath, who delights in killing her lovers…among others. What makes this work so well is that Minihan builds a nice and believable relationship between Jules and Jackie in a short time and then has it painfully unravel and turn into a fight for survival between the two wives. The script is clever and Minihan gives it some nice artistic touches which elevate it from a simple horror flick to a movie with substance, style and some shocking moments, too. There is brutal violence and as it’s used sparingly and at the right moments, we feel it when it comes and it’s effective throughout. The cat and mouse game between Jackie and Jules is tense and suspenseful and we are riveted when Jules is forced to watch her lover engage in some horrible acts against innocents. It’s a rough ride for the audience, yet never exploitative…which makes it all the more effective. Minihan knows how to build suspense and how to use his camera and shots to create atmosphere and tension. That camera work is captured excellently by David Schuurman’s cinematography and there’s a really great score by star Brittany Allen. Having seen all of Minihan’s films, this is his most confident and daring movie yet. It’s the film where a filmmaker moves out from under his influences and finds his own voice.
What also makes it work so well is borderline brilliant performances by it’s leading ladies. Brittany Allen, in her third film for Minihan, gives a powerful portrayal of a woman who is torn apart by betrayal and finding that her wife is a psychotic monster. We watch a gentle woman shattered by the pain and torment of these horrific revelations and then slowly finding the strength to fight back against someone she once loved more than anything. Hannah Emily Anderson at first fools us into believing, as does Jules, that this is a sweet and caring woman in love with her soulmate. We then watch her slowly turn into the calculated and cunning psychopath she really is and one with disturbing depth, making her unnervingly real. She’s not a stereotype and the fact that Anderson avoids over-the-top and stays chillingly calm, makes her even more frightening. Wonderful work by both actresses. Martha MacIsaac and Joey Klein also appear as a couple that live across the lake, but we know their purpose from the start and they serve it well.
Simply one of the best horror films of the year, so far and the best film yet from a writer/director who gets better and better with each film. It’s clever, intelligent and brutal and intense. It’s a disturbing portrayal of love and betrayal. It’s two former lovers in a battle of wills and survival that is as provocative as it is unnerving. The leading ladies give really powerful performances and Colin Minihan proves he is a filmmaker that genre fans should be talking far more about.
Rated 4 (out of 4) hunting knives.