Good golly, why didn’t they just get a nice hotel suite? Instead, Jules and Jackie thought it would be romantic to spend their one-year anniversary at the latter’s family hunting cabin. Alas, their two-year anniversary looks increasingly unlikely as events spin out of control in Colin Minihan’s What Keeps You Alive (spoilery trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
There is a big game-changing twist pretty early on in the first act that would really be shame to reveal. You might still guess it from some of the awkward phrases that will follow, but if you haven’t ben tipped off to it, Minihan does a nice job camouflaging it for ten or fifteen minutes. We’re not kidding here—it’s a big one.
Regardless, Jules the city slicker will be pushed to her limits, both physically and emotionally. She might not be the outdoorsy type like her wife, but she has a strong survival drive. She endures all kinds of pain and nasty injuries, but the drama always feels completely believable in the moment.
Looking considerably more mature than she has in prior scream queen roles (such as Extraterrestrial and It Stains the Sand Red), Brittany Allen does arguably her career best work as Jules. Even when she is totally and utterly freaked out, Allen shows flashes of her intelligence and resilience. Hannah Emily Anderson also makes for a heck of a gung-ho outdoors sports enthusiast.
One of the possible advantages of What Keep’s hush-hush secret is that it makes it harder for the easily offended to complain, because that would commit the mortal sin of spoiling. In any event, it is bound to be divisive, so genre fans should see it sooner rather than later, before the party-poopers let the cat out of the bag. Still, Minihan has a few more surprises up his sleeve in what is a lethally effective, lean and mean thriller, perched on the boundary of psycho-horror.
There is no question What Keeps is alsso Minihan’s best work since the original Grave Encounters, which he co-helmed with Stuart Ortiz, under their Vicious Brothers moniker. It is a relentless film that will leave even jaded genre fans shocked, but satisfied. Very highly recommended, What Keeps You Alive opens this Friday (8/24) in New York, at the IFC Center.