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‘What Keeps You Alive’ (review)

Produced by Chris Ball, Kurtis David Harder,
Ben Knechtel, Colin Minihan

Written and Directed by Colin Minihan
Starring Hannah Emily Anderson,
Brittany Allen, Martha MacIsaac, Joey Klein

 

A female married couple, Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen), arrive at a mountain home to celebrate their one-year anniversary.

The home was owned by Jackie’s family and she spent a good deal of her youth there. The happy couple have barely settled in when Jules notices that being in this familiar stead has affected Jackie. She seems a bit distant…then an old friend, Sarah, stops by and Jackie begins behaving even more oddly.

The couple’s arrival at the home is punctuated by a terrific Steadicam shot that swirls throughout the house.

This is the first of many excellent shots and stylistic choices employed by director Colin Minihan, who builds suspense expertly in the first third, which culminates in a delicious surprise.

Minihan and company never top that surprise, but the film remains enjoyable – if disappointingly superficial – throughout.

What Keeps You Alive is tense, creepy and intriguing to the end, though I wish it had a bit more meat on its bones. I was hoping Minihan would explore the many facets of a new marriage within the context of a thriller. And to be fair, he does that, to an extent. I suppose I (greedily?) just wanted a deeper examination.

It’s difficult to review this film as a whole without divulging spoilers, but suffice it to say the two leads both give excellent performances, running a gamut of emotions throughout.

There was a stretch when a character appeared to be giving up, out of grief, paralyzing fear or perhaps even exhaustion. While these moments were at first very frustrating (at times I wanted to shout, “Fight BACK, dammit!”), I admired the choice in retrospect, as I think many people in the real world – as opposed to the movie world – would react similarly. It’s the same feeling I had while watching Saving Private Ryan, when Jeremy Davies cowered on the stairs as his comrade was being killed by a German soldier.

While the second half of the film covers well-trodden thriller ground, it does so rather well, with an effective score (composed, to my surprise, by lead actress Allen), the aforementioned cinematography (David Schuurman) and a fairly relentless pace making up for a certain lack of originality and surface-level psychology.

If it’s a well-executed thriller you want, What Keeps You Alive will likely do the trick.

 

What Keeps You Alive is now playing in theaters and On Demand

 

 

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