WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE is the latest film from writer/director Colin Minihan (Grave Encounters, It Stains the Sands Red) which showcases a terrifying female serial killer not often seen in horror films. The film stars Hannah Emily Anderson (Jigsaw, TV’s The Purge), Brittany Allen (It Stains the Sands Red, Jigsaw), Martha MacIsaac (Superbad, 2009’s The Last House on the Left), and Joey Klein (The Other Half, The Vow).
Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen) are madly in love and celebrating their one year anniversary at a secluded cabin in the woods. The setting is beautiful with majestic mountains and a large lake that is both welcoming and calming and the perfect backdrop to the rustic home once owned by Jackie’s family. However, once they arrive, Jules begins to notice that her once loving wife has started to act differently; nothing to drastic at first, just preoccupied and distant. After a chance encounter with a neighbor, secrets surrounding Jackie begin to unfold as a much darker side to her is revealed, a side that Jules never knew existed. As the terrifying revelation comes to the forefront, Jules finds herself up against the woman she loves in a terrifying battle for survival.
To say that I love this movie would be a complete understatement as it is one of the only films that I can recall that showcases a same sex relationship where one of the women is a serial killer. What really makes this film a cut above the rest is the relationship between Jackie and Jules, as well as the realistic scenario that encompasses the film. This is not one of those horror movies that forces the viewer to suspend their belief as there is no supernatural or demonic force at play. The only monster is the one that is inside Jackie and it’s one that is much more terrifying than the notion of make-believe monsters and urban legends.
As I mentioned above, the film works so well because of the powerful dynamic between Jackie and Jules. In an interview I had with director Colin Minihan he had mentioned that originally the script called for a heterosexual couple, but due to a last minute change, it became a same sex couple. I’m not convinced that had the movie stayed on its original course that it would have been as effective, as the performances from Hannah Emily Anderson and Brittany Allen were top-notch. I had been familiar with Brittany Allen’s work from her previous films It Stains the Sand Red and Jigsaw, as well as Hannah Emily Anderson who was also in Jigsaw, but seeing them work together so closely, and in such tandem, made the film that much more believable and also that much more terrifying. At its core, this film makes you question if you actually ever really know someone, and that is a horrifying question to sit with.
My favorite part of this film definitely had to be the end, which I won’t go to in depth with because I’m not an asshole who spoils films. I’m a big fan of movies that are willing to push the envelope to really drive home a point, which WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE did. Not all endings need to be happy and I appreciate it when a director goes the length they need to in order to allow the film to be more grounded in reality. As a whole Colin Minihan did a brilliant job with crafting a tense story that kept me on my toes throughout the entire runtime. As a huge fan of his previous films, Grave Encounters and It Stains the Sand Red, I’m not at all surprised that he came up with another skillfully crafted film. He is able to pull out deep human emotions through his complex characters in a way that not many directors can and it shows through his body of work. With WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE, Minihan has a monumental treat for fans of the horror/thriller genre.
All in all, as I’m sure you can tell, I have nothing but positive things to say about WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE. The film kept me on the edge of my seat and drew me instantly in with the unfolding dread every step of the way. Minihan is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors within the genre and both Brittany Allen and Hannah Emily Anderson have really showcased their talent with both of their performances. Fans of thrillers and/or horror films that center around family dynamics and relationships will definitely want to check out WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE when it’s released in select theaters and VOD nationwide on August 24 from IFC Midnight.