[Panic Fest 2021 Review] KATHERINE'S LULLABY
Editor’s Note: At the time of review, the name of the film was KATHERINE’S LULLABY. The title has since been changed to CAPTIVE.

The Abduction/Captivity genre is one that can be difficult to breathe new life into. There are familiar beats, familiar scenarios that many have come to expect. However, when a film in the genre can flip the script or show audiences a different way to gauge the situation, that’s something exciting. This is something Savvas Christou’s KATHERINE’S LULLABY manages to do. While the final 20 minutes or so of the film undercuts the film’s overall impact, the scenario Christou presents, how it plays out, and the performances delivered by William Kircher and Tori Kostic help bring this abduction film together. It makes one curious to know what the filmmaker will deliver to the table in the future.

KATHERINE’S LULLABY is directed and written by Savvas Christou (A Scream That’s Trapped Inside). The film stars William Kircher (The Hobbit film series), Tori Kostic (“Raven’s Home”), Jolene Andersen (Attack of the Unknown), and Meghan Hanako (Love, Los Angeles, and Larry). The film follows Lily (Tori Kostic) on the run from her abusive father, with her boyfriend Neil (Jairus Carey). The two become separated, which leads to Lily’s anxiety and panic spiking. Rather than stay in place, she chooses to find someone to help her and stumbles upon a house. At first, she almost chooses to leave until a man (William Kircher) appears at the door. Disarmingly polite and off, the young teen warily enters his home. However, the man’s mood switches quickly and things quickly escalate. What transpires throughout the rest of KATHERINE’S LULLABY is a visual lesson in survival, keeping the peace, and then some.

From the beginning, one element that standouts to this reviewer are how quickly the power dynamics are established between Lily and the male figures featured in this film. As a victim of abuse, it becomes clear straight away how Lily is placed at an unfair disadvantage throughout the course of this film. However, on the flip side, viewers can also see the techniques she’s developed for survival with her father carry over into her predicament with Evan, the man who holds her captive. Whether it’s backing down when he exerts his authority, bargaining in exchange for something nice, etc., these tactics the viewer observes of Lilly throughout the course of KATHERINE’S LULLABY bring the viewer in. It also provides a sense of realism to the film that makes it all the easier to imagine a scenario like this happening.

Tori Kostic in KATHERINE’S LULLABY l Courtesy of Panic Fest

What pushes the film from feeling too real, however, are the twists and turns embedded into the storyline. At times, these twists work to keep the audience guessing, especially as we learn more about Evan and the demons that plague him surrounding his daughter, Katherine’s (Meghan Hanako), disappearance and his wife’s (Jolene Andersen) tragic death in a car accident. The trauma inflicted on him has destroyed his psyche, contributing to his actions in kidnapping Lily once she appears at his doorstep looking for help. However, some twists do not work and, in fact, undermine the overall impact KATHERINE’S LULLABY could have had on its audience as the film wraps. The over-abundance of twists and turns prompts the question of whether or not they were added into the script to keep the audience from never truly wondering what’s going on or more so for the shock factor.

While the individual audience member may be pushed away by some of the twists and turns, the performances delivered by William Kircher and Tori Kostic will keep them hooked. William Kircher’s Evan is disarming and, at times, easily reminds the audience that this is not a normal kidnapper. Kircher seamlessly hits the levels necessary to keep Kostic’s Lily guessing while also making the audience sympathetic to the character (and not just in the way audiences can sympathize with villain types ala Loki or Hannibal at the top of this reviewer’s head). Kostic has the devil’s challenge of playing a young teen who has spent years being abused navigating this new challenge. Anyone who has lived with a volatile person will recognize the tactics Lily engages in KATHERINE’S LULLABY and the psychological journey Lily is undergoing in order to survive and adapt in this environment. Kostic is convincing, even with the final twist thrown in towards the final act. Truly commendable.

All in all, KATHERINE’S LULLABY may not be perfect, but it does a decent job in keeping its audience hooked and on the edge of their seat. That’s no easy feat.  William Kircher and Tori Kostic work well together, navigating the unique dynamics between their characters while also maintaining a much-needed groundedness to keep the story from feeling too over the top. There’s also a believability to how Lily is developed that some may find all too relatable. That coordinated effort between Kostic and Christou to create that believability works well in the film’s favor. While the twists and turns can be detrimental to the overall film itself, that’s something that can be easily worked on in future projects from Christou. In the end, this reviewer is curious to see what Christou will tackle in his next project.

KATHERINE’S LULLABY is one of many films being shown at this year’s Panic Fest, which takes place between April 8 through the 18th. Acquire your tickets here!

Sarah Musnicky
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