What Keeps You Alive, 2018.
Directed by Colin Minihan.
Starring Brittany Allen, Hannah Emily Anderson, Martha MacIsaac, Joey Klein, and Charlotte Lindsay Marron.
On the eve of their one-year wedding anniversary, Jules and Jackie become embroiled in a merciless fight for their lives when they find themselves pitted against the most unexpected of adversaries. As violence reigns down upon their idyllic forest getaway, the two women engage in a frenzied psychological and vicious battle that will test the very limits of their instinct to survive.
What Keeps You Alive is a plot driven film through and through. Therefore, to say too much about that aspect of it would do the film a disservice, as the less you know about the various twists and turns the story takes the better. However, just know that you will not see everything coming, and there will be at least a few turns along the way that truly surprise you. Also know that, unlike many horror/thrillers, the film’s plot is not its only strength. So let’s talk about a couple of those other strengths.
Firstly, What Keeps You Alive is a beautifully shot film. I don’t mean that it’s beautifully shot for a thriller; I mean it’s beautifully shot, period. There a numerous, wide outdoor shots that capture the vastness of the woodlands and the lake, which juxtapose nicely with the tight closeups, which brilliantly capture the anguish of each character. This juxtaposition between the idyllic and the frightful might sound out of place, but it really works in the context of the film and the story.
There are also a handful of really creative shots. One scene, which sees Jules (Brittany Allen) escaping across the lake on a rowing boat, occasionally cuts to shots where the camera has been placed on the oar itself. Naturally, the camera moves with the oar, which is Jules is using frantically. It shakes as she shakes, frequently submerges, and brilliantly conveys her panic to the audience.
Secondly, the film’s two central characters are incredibly compelling. Both Brittany and Hannah put on great performances, and the script gives them plenty to work with, making their characters three-dimensional. They each have their own clear – and in one case very usual – motivations. They both, for the most part, react like actual humans would in their situation, which is a breath of fresh air in a genre full of dumb victims running upstairs to get away from killers. And most importantly, they each do plenty to make the audience care about them. Whether the audience cares about them because they like them, or whether they just care to see them killed, I’ll leave as a surprise.
If I have any criticism of the film, it’s that it never really seems to hit a major high. The plot’s constantly changing landscape keeps things forever interesting, but even the ending, which is both satisfactory and upsetting, feels like its missing something. What exactly, I couldn’t say.
Regardless, What Keeps You Alive is still an excellent film, even if it is missing a little je ne sais qua. It’s a far more cerebral and heartfelt thriller than most, and there are some nice, gory horror moments thrown in there for good measure.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
James Turner is a writer and musician based in Sheffield. You can follow him on Twitter @JTAuthor