• Mike Holtz

FRIGHTFEST REVIEW: 'Held' is a Bit Like 2020's Version of 'Vacancy'

A married couple having issues rents a house for a secluded romantic vacation and are held captive in the home while a mysterious voice gives them commands. They must "obey" or face consequences.

Directed by: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing (The Gallows)

Starring: Jill Awbrey, Bart Johnson

One of the most fun things about seeing movies that don't even have a trailer yet is having absolutely no clue what the hell is happening until it happens. Such is the case with 'Held', the opening film of UK's FrightFest.

'Held' slowly delivers the information that Emma (Awbrey) and Henry (Johnson) have some major marital issues and it's only heightened by their extremely awkward politeness to each other at all times. Things pretty quickly go awry and a creepy as fuck voice takes control of all the locks, windows, security systems and people in the house. To describe how this is pulled off would be a disservice to the unraveling of the film as it's one of its best assets.

The voice directing them to do extremely awkward things "or else" clearly has a vested interest in their marriage and the film does a good job of keeping you guessing for about seventy percent of the time. There's enough twists and turns to make for a suspenseful viewing experience throughout; invoking films like 'Await Further Instructions' or to a lighter extent 'Funny Games'. I wouldn't call this a "home invasion" film as much as I would call it a "Holy shit, what would I do in this exact situation and WHO THE FUCK IS THAT VOICE?" film. Sound a little specific? Give it some thought and quite a few films fit that extremely just now made up genre.

I'm a bit disappointed in the finale to 'Held' as it becomes predictable just a moment too soon, and the agenda a little heavy handed. I've no issue with what is so clearly being said here about marriage (being vague on purpose) but when the curtain drops it subsequently knocks all of the tension out of the room. I'm also left not all too impressed with the films survivors and their newfound freedom. We're supposed to root for this person? Nah.

Even though I found myself disappointed with the results, it's all about the journey and 'Held' is a great ride. An ambitious mystery box of horror that even JJ Abrams would be proud of. I'm willing to bet you'll get a kick out of most of this film and Bart Johnson is definitely an actor I'll be keeping an eye out for in the future. He's got a real Jon Hamm 'Mad Men' feel about him that serves him well. Want to say more but can't! I absolutely recommend checking out 'Held' when you get the chance. 6.5/10

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