HELD – “Promising premise – disastrous execution”




Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing


  • Jill Awbrey as Emma Barrett
  • Bart Johnson as Henry Barrett
  • Rez Kempton as Joe
  • Zack Gold as Ryan Sullivan
  • Jener Dasilva as Graham


Emma and Henry's marriage is losing its spark. In an effort to reconnect, they vacation to a remote high-end rental, complete with automated smart house features and integrated security. However, after suspecting a nighttime intruder they decide to flee, only to become forcibly trapped inside by the automated security system. While the situation grows increasingly brutal, Emma and Henry must work together to uncover the truth and find a way out before it's too late.


Held, a post “Me Too” domestic thriller horror movie, can perhaps best be surmised in 4 little words: promising premise – disastrous execution. Yep, this twisty little horror outing had loads of potential. What could have been a fun SAW-level film for married couples, is unfortunately awash with bad acting, lazy writing, poor production values, and a laundry list of clichés.

It is the awkwardly stilted performances that standout as the most detrimental, however. Given the whole “couple-trapped-in-a-house” story line, the core of Held hinges on the chemistry between our two leads, Jill Awbrey and Bart Johnson. Alas, there is none. Yes, this is one horror tale where you won’t care if any of the characters live or die. Ok, scratch that, you’ll probably be wishing for the latter. It could be the material they’ve been given to work with, mind you, as the dialogue falls into cringe territory more times than not. It’s as if the writers of a Lifetime movie decided to make b-grade torture porn. Needless to say, it’s not great!

It’s actually the themes in Held that are the most intriguing. I mean, it’s not some expert exploration of the dynamics of married life, but it is a thought-provoking look at relationship politics – specifically gender roles, sexual power, and the conundrums that come with marital commitments. There is surprisingly a lot to say (perhaps too much). It’s just too bad everything is delivered in an unintentional laughable manner. Heck, the filmmakers couldn’t even fully drive home the “female empowerment” component. With a smarter script and some inspired choices, this could have served as a respectable addition to pantheon of “final girl” cinema. Unfortunately, it becomes nothing more than a footnote – if that.

To be fair, there are a couple of well-done jump scares here, not to mention a handful of creepy visuals. They only get about halfway with the claustrophobic dread that comes with being held in a strange house, though. But, as for the film’s big twist, it’s admittedly an interesting one – even if fairly predictable by the end. I’ll spare you my diatribe on the frustrating plot holes said twist leaves us with, but let’s just say they are big enough to drive a Mack truck through. While most horror films will keep you awake at night from the terrors you saw onscreen, this one will have you losing shuteye from trying to make sense of the many narrative gaps.

So, with plausibility all but thrown out the window, along with a myriad of missed opportunities, it’s probably best you wash your hands of Held.

*Originally posted at mysteryandsuspense.com


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