23rd Oct2020

Frightfest 2020: ‘Held’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Jill Awbrey, Bart Johnson, Rez Kempton, Zack Gold, Jener Dasilva, Tessa Munro | Written by Jill Awbrey | Directed by Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing

A lot of movies begin with an overhead show of a car driving down a long deserted road. Ominous, sure, but something we’ve seen many many times before. That is, though, perhaps where the “same old” ends with Held.

I do love Frightfest, and in the midst of many of their festivals I’ve discovered a bunch of movies I’ve enjoyed. Held, directed by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing (The Gallows), and penned by Jill Awbrey, is a mystery horror film about a couple who are going through strains in their marriage and head off for an anniversary getaway for their ninth year, when things become even more difficult for the two of them after they are held hostage in the hi-tech and modern vacation house and given commends by an unseen voice over the intercom system. The commands begin tame and somewhat calm, but grow and turn more extreme and disturbing. Can they survive?

Writer Jill Awbrey plays Emma, and Bart Johnson plays her husband Henry. They’re really, really good as the couple struggling through wedded far-from-bliss. I felt like I could believe in them as a couple, and I felt like their performances together really gave the impression that they’d been together for a while, that they had their struggles and their desires to work through them in this hectic and chaotic moment. There’s a big ole dollop tension going on here, and many questions and reveals that keep things interesting and pull things into that realm of horror. It has a convincingly atmosphere of discomfort going on that really makes you wonder what will happen next.

Themes of power and marriage and how the two interconnect, with the idea of strong patriarch and dutiful matriarch being poked at in many ways. It’s an uncomfortable necessary theme, and one that feels more relevant that perhaps it has in a long time, with the political climate as it is, and the ideals of society being pulled and pushed into ways that aren’t exactly “forward thinking”. The extremes that those holding the couple hostage go to grow to horrific levels, all creating this desperate situation that they helplessly try to find a way out of.

Held looks good and sounds great, but it’s the acting here, and the mysterious and explosive story, that keep you watching. It really is something unique, and shows the horror in situations that perhaps we ignore. There’s a realism to what the film is saying. The idea of the male member of the household being the power, being the one that should be in control, is something that has been fought against for a long time, yet there’s still fighting to be done. Held forces us to take a look at that, whilst providing a gripping and curious horror picture full of turns and tormenting concepts. Scary, in a different way than perhaps I’d expected, it is effective and very well done.

**** 4/5

Held opened this months Frightfest Digital Edition on Wednesday October 21st 2020.


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