"My dad, he used to say to me: You only kill what keeps you alive." This moral hunter's credo takes on sinister overtones when spoken by Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) to her lover Jules (Brittany Allen) in the brutal Red Band trailer for writer/director Colin Minihan's What Keeps You Alive. The film was scooped up for distribution by IFC Midnight following an impactful debut at SXSW last March and can now be seen in theaters in Los Angeles and New York or on VOD. The film's premise seems as straight-forward as it is nerve-shredding:
How much can you really know about another person? The unsettling truth that even those closest to us can harbor hidden dimensions drives this thrillingly unpredictable, blood-stained fear trip. Jackie (Anderson) and Jules (Allen) are a couple celebrating their one year anniversary at a secluded cabin in the woods belonging to Jackie's family. From the moment they arrive, something changes in Jules' normally loving wife, as Jackie (if that even is her real name) begins to reveal a previously unknown dark side-all building up to a shocking revelation that will pit Jules against the woman she loves most in a terrifying fight to survive. Defying expectations at every turn, Director Colin Minihan delivers a nerve-twisting cat and mouse thriller built around a shattering tale of heartbreak and betrayal.
The trailer is a potent combination of tried-and-true horror troupes. There's the cabin in the woods (which any fan of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead franchise will warn you is a bad choice for a vacation get-away); the same-sex murderous obsession of Alexandre Aja's High Tension; the domestic terror of Honeymoon, Landmine Goes Click, and What Lies Beneath; the unbridled sadism of films like I Spit on You Grave and The Last House on the Left; the fish-out-of-water disorientation of an urbanite lost in an unfamiliar forest; and the paranoia that those we love the most are secretly (or in this case, overtly) trying to kill us.
Minihan may not be a household name (yet) but he's absolutely a rising star in the horror genre. Half of the filmmaking duo sometimes known as The Vicious Brothers (along with Stuart Ortiz) he's the mastermind of the Grave Encounters franchise (brilliant examples of the continued viability of the found footage subgenre). He also wrote and directed Extraterrestrial, one of my personal favorites from a recent wave of realistic horror/sci-fi that included Area 51 and Operation Avalanche. He helmed It Stains the Sands Red, a neo-feminist thriller that takes place in a zombie-infested desert wasteland (and made my personal 10 Best Horror Films of 2017 list), and he most recently received accolades for the paternity/pregnancy creeper Still/Born which he wrote.
As for the core cast, Hannah Emily Anderson was the best part of Jigsaw (the latest entry in the Saw franchise) as Eleanor Bonneville, a tattooed forensic investigator with a proud obsession with John Kramer (Tobin Bell); she'll also feature prominently in the upcoming The Purge TV series produced by Universal and Blumhouse TV for USA. Brittany Allen gave a knock-out performance as Molly in the previously mentioned It Stains the Sound Red, an extremely difficult role which she completely owned; he contributions to the success of that endeavor can't be overstated, and those keeping an eye out for future genre heavyweights would be wise to keep her in their sights.