Pet (Movie Review)

Pet (Movie Review)
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PLOT: When a man abducts his crush and keeps her in a cage, the question arises: which of these two is crazier?

REVIEW: If PET's lead character Seth (played by Dominic Monaghan) had decided to take his life down a different path, this film could have been the heartwarming story of a man who works in an animal shelter and can't stand to see the animals in his care get euthanized any longer, so he starts harboring them in the tunnels beneath the building. It could have been a subterranean HOTEL FOR DOGS for a more mature audience. Unfortunately for everyone involved, it's not the animals that he bonds with at the shelter that Seth decides to keep in those tunnels. It's his high school crush, who he bumps into on the bus during his commute one day. And thus, we have a psychological thriller on our hands.

PET seems to be something of a passion project for Monaghan, who signed on to it in early 2008 and remained attached and dedicated to bringing screenwriter Jeremy Slater's script to the screen even while directors came and went and the project endured time in development hell. If PET had been made eight years ago, it still could have been a fine film, but it's not likely that it would have co-starred Ksenia Solo as Seth's crush / captive Holly, and having her presence in this film may well have been worth the eight year delay.

Sure, Monaghan and Solo are nearly 11 years apart in age in real life, so you may have to suspend disbelief that they were in high school at the same time, although the age difference really didn't stand out to me. What did stand out were the impressive performances they both delivered.

Although Monaghan's American accent took some getting used to, he still came off quite well as the quirky, awkward Seth - a guy who at first seems very pleasant and likeable. He's nice, he cares about the animals at the shelter, one dog in particular. Things get a little shaky when he allows that dog to be euthanized rather than find a way to rescue her, and then Seth gradually becomes creepier as he becomes more obsessed with Holly and tries to find a way to worm into her life. When he shifts into full abductor mode, it did raise questions for me, as we don't know that much about Seth's history. Is becoming obsessed with women like this a usual thing for him? Has he ever shown signs that he could take something in this direction before? It wasn't clear to me just what sort of creep Seth was, but we'll eventually come to find out that he was spurred into doing this by something specific he read in Holly's journal. Which he stole, being the creepy stalker that he is.

I've been familiar with Monaghan since he first became a Hobbit, but Solo is an actress I was seeing for the first time here, and she was something of a revelation. Holly doesn't start off on the best foot; she seems aloof and cold, but hey, if she's not interested in Seth, who can blame her? However, things take a turn once Seth has her locked up in a cage, and the strangeness begins when we see that she is continuing to have conversations with her friend Claire (Jennette McCurdy), a character who to this point had appeared to be Holly's roommate, even while in Seth's custody. Claire isn't really in that room with her, so what the hell is going on here?

For the first 30 minutes, PET is the story of a young woman being stalked by an unwanted admirer. For the next hour, it becomes a fascinating study of two screwed up characters bouncing off of each other in a very dark and twisted scenario. As misguided as it is, you'll come to understand Seth's reasoning for locking Holly up beneath the animal shelter, and you'll begin to wonder which of these two is actually more mentally unbalanced than the other.

This is a film that is carried entirely on the shoulders of its two leads, and Monaghan and Solo were more than up for the challenge. Director Carles Torrens did well at capturing their performances and displaying them in a film that is captivating and moves along at a good pace. Monaghan had to wait almost a decade to bring this story to life, and he should be very proud of how it ultimately turned out. Sometimes, good things really do come to those who wait.

Extra Tidbit: PET will be released in select theatres and on VOD on December 2nd, with a DVD release to follow on December 27.



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