Frightfest‘s second digital festival of 2020 began with the tense and thrilling home invasion (or is it home entrapment) film Held.
Looking to reignite the spark for their ninth wedding anniversary, Emma and Henry check in to a remote house for the weekend where everything is controlled by a hi-tech electronic system. After an evening of drinking and reminiscing, the couple fall asleep only to find themselves trapped in the house.
It turns out that AirBnB’s have become the new Cabin In The Woods as their luxury escape becomes a prison.
A mysterious voice over the intercom system informs them that they must obey their every command if they want to survive. Disobedience is met with pain through a sonic implant placed behind their ears.
At first, the Voice claims that what they ask is in the couple’s best interests. To help their marriage. The instructions begin simply. For example, “A husband should open the door for his wife” or “a wife should make dinner for her husband”.
However when the demands become more extreme and are met with resistance, the Voice reveals they know more about the Barrett’s relationship than each of the individual party’s involved.
This twisted experiment initially puts the estranged couple at odds but in time, they work together to outsmart their captor.
Jill Awbry and Bart Johnson are fantastic as the unhappy couple. The opening scenes with them are suitably strained, stilted and awkward. It is clear however that deep down, there is an affection for each other that drives their resilience to make it through. Together, to avoid their marriage ending on the “till death do us part” part of the vows.
Directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing (The Gallows) wring every drop of tension out of the premise. There is also a fascinating juxtaposition between the modern technology holding them captive and the antiquated, patriarchal views of marriage the Voice seeks to impart.
This juxtaposition really helps to sell the reveal as to the source of the horror. It is a real sucker punch that causes the pit of your stomach to drop. Forcing you to question everything you have seen up to that point.
The Barrett’s relationship may have faltered but Held and Frightfest is a match made in heaven.
Director: Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing
Stars: Jill Awbry, Bart Johnson
Runtime: 94 minutes