In what can only be described as V.C. Andrews meets Skinemax, Netflix’s Locked In brings sleazy entertainment value to the forefront for this throwback erotic thriller. With familiarity in either of these fields, Locked In checks off nearly every box. Inexplicable, randomly-placed gratuitous sex scenes, a heavy dose of incest, femme fatales, and a side of murder for good measure—it’s all here, and going direct-to-streaming may only add to the appeal. Primed for mass consumption, Locked In is a late-in-the-year treat for wine-sipping girlies the world over.
Jumping all over the place in time, Locked In first thrusts us into the aftermath of a violent attack. Before the audience can ask a single question, five weeks earlier, Katherine (Famke Janssen, Nip/Tuck, The Faculty) awakens from a three-day coma, plagued by visions of rainy nights and chaotic trauma. They do not know if she can recover, but a friendly neuroclinical nurse (Anna Friel) commits to helping Katherine escape this “locked in syndrome,” with adopted daughter Lina (Rose Williams) by her side. How did Katherine end up in this state? As if this wasn’t enough, Locked In then flashes back a third time, thirteen years earlier. Confused yet?
After the passing of her mother, Lina goes to live with her rich and famous aunt Katherine, her new legal guardian at imposing Rowling Manor. The relationship Lina develops with Katherine is rather unusual, mainly because Katherine leaves a self-centered distance between them, and a cold nature. Katherine’s blonde son Jamie, prone to seizures, must be acting out and “milking” them just at the opportune time to hurt Katherine the most. The very prospect of a young child being manipulative like that seems out of the question, but it’s not the last time this idea gets brought to light. Young Lina discovers connection in Jamie, and promises that they have each other now.
This brief tie bonding Jamie and Lina becomes catalyst for yet another shifting of time, notably much more drastic than the last. Rowan Joffe’s script leaps from thirteen years prior to just three, on the wedding day of much-older Lina and Jamie (Finn Cole, Animal Kingdom, Peaky Blinders). Katherine now views Lina as a “treacherous gold digger,” which we only hear about courtesy of a voiceover. Jamie seems far too concerned with the thoughts of his mother than his actual wedding ceremony. The basis for this relationship doesn’t make much sense; by the time Lina also opines that Jamie uses his own sickness to get what he wants, the questions as a viewer stick out even more. Is Lina a stand-in for Jamie’s mother, or an actual significant other? Jamie’s manipulative nature comes at what cost?
Enter: one final major character in Dr. Robert Lawrence (Alex Hassell, The Boys, The Tragedy of Macbeth) the family’s general practitioner. Robert provides Jamie with treatments to get him through rough patches. Lina begins to fall for him, and they openly engage in a steamy affair. The film flashes back and forth between the budding love story, Katherine’s rocky relationship with Jamie, and Lina’s attempts to care for a bruised, battered, and beaten Katherine in the present timeline.
Locked In remains at its best when circling the love triangle, or honed in on the bitchy exchanges between Lina and Katherine. Janssen, who has played this kind of role before with aplomb in the Ryan Murphy sandbox, remains the obvious highlight. Sex against stained glass walls may be visually stunning, but is it practical? Director Nour Wazzi doesn’t seem to care—the decadence of Rowling Manor speaks for itself, as do the richness of these characters. Netflix or Lifetime? There is nothing distinctive here to tell them apart, yet that may just be part of the fun.
Get Locked In with Netflix’s campy comfort watch, debuting globally to Netflix on Wednesday, November 1st.