Director: Natasha Kermani
Notable Cast: Brea Grant, Dhruv Uday Singh, Kausar Mohammed, Kristina Klebe, Chase Williamson, Leith M. Burke, Jesse Merlin
When it comes to independent genre cinema, one simply can’t ignore the powerhouse ‘triple threat’ that is Brea Grant. Actress, writer, and director, she’s become such a dynamic and important voice that if you haven’t made note of her – do it now. For the focus of this review, Lucky, she serves as both the lead actress and writer, but what really sets this film aside is her teaming up with Natasha Kermani, the very artistic and stylish director of Imitation Girl. When it comes to bold, thoughtful post-genre cinema, the combination tantalizes. To have them work together on a film like Lucky is almost too good to be true. Yet, as the credits roll on the film during Shudderfest 2020, the combination proves as fascinating as expected. Lucky is a densely message heavy horror thriller, anchored by an incredibly nuanced performance from Brea Grant, that uses its artistic atmosphere, dream-like narrative, and pops of brutal violence to hammer home its themes.
Considering this is a film where the main concept is a woman who is repeatedly attacked in her own house every night and no one seems to care, the film is remarkably focused on building its narrative and tension in a decently slow-burn manner. Most of Lucky is focused on delivering an atmosphere that wraps around its plotting since, quite frankly, the plot itself is simple. Grant’s character May, a successful self-help author, must defend herself and her home from a mysterious masked intruder. No matter how many times she kills him, he returns every night and no one seems concerned for her or her well-being, not even her husband. As the film plays out, it leans harder and harder into its dream logic, leaving a lot of questions about the plot, but the intention of the film is that the plot is substandard to the characters and messaging at the heart of the film.
The film is heavy on thematic weight – albeit this time around it’s far more upfront and straightforward with its messaging than Kermaini’s previous effort and it never intends to hide its social commentary. Depending on whether or not one prefers their depth to be text or subtext is how well this approach will work, but it’s a thoughtful approach that does strike the emotional core of its characters and audience with a bold boom. To dig deeper into the themes and social commentary would betray the experience of watching it unfold, but with the talent in front and behind the camera, trust that it has important things to say. To say that the film intends to be a frustrating experience for its audience though is an understatement and that’s a huge compliment.
With some fantastically nuanced performances, truly carried on the shoulders of the usual talents of Brea Grant, Lucky is able to still deliver on its surface level pieces too. There is a sly, dark humor embedded throughout the film which adds a nice levity to the often-heavier themes and the bursts of horrific violence, which culminates in a nightmarish and 70s Italian cinema-inspired survival moment in a parking garage, is punctuated nicely against the artistic atmosphere. The brisk run time benefits the film immensely too, although the overall pacing can be described as slow burn, it’s impressively paced to work for its focuses.
Lucky is another film that fits squarely into the artistic horror and thriller movement that has dominated the last handful of years. The combined talents of Kermani and Grant provides the perfect storm of thoughtfully written social commentary that happens to exist in a home invasion flick. The dream-like qualities of its narrative, along with the strong execution of the surface level portions allow Lucky to entertain, but leave that lasting echo effect of smart film making. When the film eventually gets a wide release in 2021, it’s almost certainly going to find an audience with vigor.