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What Keeps You Alive (Movie Review)

What Keeps You Alive (Movie Review)
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PLOT: How much can you really know about another person? The unsettling truth that even those closest to us can harbor hidden dimensions drives this thrillingly unpredictable, blood-stained fear trip. Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen) are a couple celebrating their one year anniversary at a secluded cabin in the woods belonging to Jackie’s family. From the moment they arrive, something changes in Jules’ normally loving wife, as Jackie (if that even is her real name) begins to reveal a previously unknown dark side—all building up to a shocking revelation that will pit Jules against the woman she loves most in a terrifying fight to survive.

REVIEW: Let's start out with a rundown on the plot from my perspective. I can't remember when I first heard about Colin Minihan's new twisty and twisted thriller WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE starring Hannah Emily Anderson, Brittany Allen, and - Hey, is that the girl who hooked up with Michael Cera in SUPERBAD?! Wow, it's been a while, Martha MacIsaac. Anyhow, I can't remember when I first heard of the film, but I remember marking it down as a top film to peep ASAP, and then I guess I left it at that. Hence, I had no idea when I slapped this screener up on the screen what the movie was about. I knew it was a "Girl vs Girl Out in the Woods" tale, but whoa, did I miss something along the way. 

Turns out this film is about a lesbian couple who take a trip to the middle of the woods, and once all settled in, one of them begins a savage campaign to end the other's life in the most horrible ways possible. All of this seems to be well known by people who read the plot synopsis and/or watched the trailer. I guess that's just what the movie is. But that said, I didn't know it. And thus the turn the film takes at the end of its first act took me by super surprise. From the point when one of them goes off the deep end - and the other goes off something else - I was hooked. Did the rest of the film continue on with this quality? Let's find out!

To kick all of this off, let's talk a bit about the film's title. The term WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE comes from a story laid out by Hannah Emily Anderson's character in the first act. She tells her wife (Brittany Allen) that her father was a hunter (thus setting up her ability to hunt the everliving shit out of her wife throughout the rest of the movie) and he once told her, "Only kill what keeps you alive." Needless to say, Anderson's character totally missed the point of her father's musing, and in the time since gone full-tilt boogie in the other direction completely. That or the title is overly poetic and means to say her character has to kill to stay alive. But let's just hope that's not the case here.

And speaking of "only killing what keeps you alive" let's talk about the kills in this film. The movie is not filled wall-to-wall with kills by any means. But that said when the kills burst out, not only do they come quick and brutal (a bloody as all hell) but they hurt. Too many movies think one stab (without blood) will kill a person and they will silently fall to the floor. That's not the case here. And one thing I really appreciated about this movie was the way Brittany Allen's character is brutally beaten, both physically and mentally, throughout the film. What I mean to say is, pretty much right off the bat, Allen is brutalized in a way that only Leonardo DiCaprio's THE REVENANT character might have the leg-up on in the enduring sustained pain and injuries department. It's not pretty, but Allen's character keeps on going. And this makes us love her. 

So let's talk the performances for a bit. Hannah Emily Anderson and Brittany Allen are top-notch in my eyes. I have seen both of these actresses in other features, but Allen especially, who I know from JIGSAW and IT STAINS THE SANDS RED totally disappeared into this role. Sure, Anderson sometimes falls victim to the annoyingly over-confident killer cliche (whistling while she works and whatnot) she still holds her ground as a woman to truly be feared. In fact, not since David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel GONE GIRL have I seen a scarier version of a female psychopath. 

In the end, Colin Minihan's WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE is a brutal tale of just how horrible human beings can be to each other, and how we never really know the depths of evil that may very well be lurking just under the surface of the people who supposedly love us the most. That in itself is a scary-ass premise but add in the brutal beatings, bloody murders, and general nihilistic nature of this movie, and this is a film that will leave you broken and beaten at the bottom of a cliff. If that sounds like your cup of tea, by all means, please, give WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE a watch ASAP. Just make sure you don't watch it on date night. 

Extra Tidbit: IFC Midnight releases the film in theaters & VOD August 24th.
Source: AITH

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