Monday, July 19, 2021

Stick To Your Patterns

We're a long ways away from where we should be, but by golly, it sure is nice to see more horror in the hands of female filmmakers.

Quick Plot: May is semi-successful author whose books are sort of self-help bibles for working women. She lives with her husband Ray in a pleasant home that one day, becomes the daily target of a masked killer.

Every night, this mystery man returns to try to murder May, and every night, the police do their duty in stopping by to take down notes and remind May how lucky she is to have survived. She's also, we learn, lucky to have a husband that supports her even after she fumbled, lucky to have a nicely sized advance even after her last book didn't meet expectations, and always, it's implied, lucky to have not been sexually assaulted.

Written by lead actress Brea Grant and directed by Natasha Kermani, Lucky is a genuinely fresh genre film that has a lot on its mind, and somehow gets in and out in less than 90 minutes. We've all seen our share of Groundhog Day-inspired slashers, but that's not quite what Lucky is doing here.

What IS Lucky doing? Interestingly enough, a lot of asking questions without expecting any answers. The horror is almost besides the point, and by the time May realizes her final girl battles are part of a new routine, the audience isn't (or in theory, shouldn't) be expecting to jump out of their seats. The monster isn't meant to be the tall dude with the knife.

I made the mistake of wading through the internet to see what kinds of conversations Lucky was sparking, and folks, it's a bit dire:

Even some of the "certified" reviews make a point of painting May as "unlikable" and "deeply flawed," which, to my read of the film, is exactly the point of the story it's telling. Is this happening to May because she thinks she is "deeply flawed," having (MINOR SPOILER) cheated on her pretty awful husband? When we (MAJOR SPOILER) discover May isn't alone in her new daily torment, the message becomes clearer. Women are punished by a variety of powers, including, and occasionally most heavily, their own internalized self-hate.

Onscreen for the film's full runtime, Brea Grant is fantastic as May, playing a very genuine woman whose put-together life is being torn apart by something that's been inside of her for far longer than her status as prey. Her script and Kermani's direction flirt with a sort of grounded, theatrical surrealism that helps to put the audience in May's state of mind. It's not that she's going crazy: it's that the world is treating her as if she is. Is there anything more terrifyingly relatable than that?

High Points
I love a heavy string score, and Jeremy Zuckerman's music has such an odd plucky quality that keeps Lucky feeling just slightly wrong in a way that pairs well with Kermani's sense of off-centering the overall mood

Low Points
I don't mind not walking away with clear answers, but there is a decided sense of unfinished business (which, it could certainly be argued, is part of May's life) with Lucky's ending that holds it back

Lessons Learned
The first step to self-improvement is confronting your own patterns

Hammers are a great self-defense tool but do cause rust poisoning

Being hunted by a mystery madman is no reason to let your complicated hair routine get stale

Lucky is going to garner strong reactions on all sides, and much like the equally divisive Black Christmas, it's awful difficult to read criticism without clenching your teeth. Much of the negative discourse around Lucky feels like the very POINT of why Kermani and Grant made the film in the first place. Also much like Black Christmas, this is far more interesting as a study in using horror tropes to explore misogyny than as an effectively scary horror movie, so know what you're going into and head to Shudder to get it.


  1. Just watched it and... didn't really like it. Didn't hate it either. But it's one of those movies that's so dreamlike that there seem to be no solid ground, no rules. Even the protagonist doesn't feel like a real person, didn't speak like a real person.
    So it was really hard to care what happened because there seemed to be nothing to hang onto, no real consequence to anything.
    I'm fine with the message, but I felt like there wasn't enough infrastructure to support my getting emotionally involved with it... so it was just a curiousity.

    1. I can totally get that. I really wonder if the screenwriter has a theater background, because the script totally felt like a play I would have written in college (which might be why I gravitated so strongly towards it!).

    2. I suspected 'theater person' background during the scene where the various crisis responders began singing.