Marriage counseling, but horror. This is Held, the new film from Magnolia Pictures, in a nutshell. When Emma (Jill Awbrey) and her husband Henry (Bart Johnson) rent out a beautiful secluded home for their 9th anniversary, the couple must put their relationship to the ultimate test when an unseen Voice traps them inside, commanding them to “obey.” The smartly scripted horror/thriller takes a pared-down cast and wrings every imaginable possibility from this nightmare scenario.
Though Held is a movie whose general concept seems to imply that all men are creeps, I had some fun with it. The commentary on rape culture is obvious and heavy-handed, but entirely necessary. It took me awhile to get behind the direction of the story—Emma ends up being a strong enough character to carry the material. She still makes awful decisions, and has terrible reaction time to the terrors surrounding her. When the situation calls for a frantic response, she rarely rises to the occasion. Thankfully, this is a character trait remedied during the film, and felt almost purposeful.
The killer’s visage evokes the Cupid mask from Valentine, and a warped depiction of Julius Caesar. The twists and turns are far from surprising—you can see the biggest one coming a mile away. Despite the inherent predictability, suspense is built well. A shocking jumpscare completely caught me off guard. I liked the ending, and the character arc for Emma. Jill Awbrey does a great job of portraying Emma’s hesitance to speak up, and her subsequent strength. Directing duo Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, who were behind excellent found footage horror The Gallows, add a slickness and excitement to Awbrey’s script. Held will be reaching out to audiences everywhere, both in theaters and at home VOD, on April 9th.