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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Review: Held

Director: Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing

Screenplay: Jill Awbrey

Year: 2021

A couple rents a luxurious house in a remote area to spend their wedding anniversary weekend there. The place is equipped with smart gadgets for security and luxury that seem to be there for their enjoyment, but which soon turns against them. The couple discovers that they are being watched, and a voice through the house speakers starts ordering tasks from them, which they must obey or suffer the consequences.

The opening scene of “Held” shows a disturbing situation, where a young woman finds herself trapped inside a car with two men. Although the scene doesn’t show anything concrete, it suggests rather obviously that the woman was abused. The following scene shows a more adult version of the woman, who now is in an Uber-like transport, and who, with her body language, makes clear the internal scars of that dreadful night.

With these scenes, the writer Jill Awbrey, who also interprets the adult version of the protagonist Emma, shows the plot’s important topics. Among them, the trauma that these sorts of events can trigger and how some men use their physical superiority to intimidate or impose over women stand out. Knowing that the screenwriter is a woman that also interprets the protagonist (debuting in both roles in a full-length feature) and who achieves a great performance in both parts, it makes you think that this might be a topic close to her.

Once the couple arrives at the luxurious house, it is made clear that their relationship is not going through its best times and that this weekend, more than to celebrate their anniversary, is an effort to save their marriage. The directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing (“The Gallows”) establish the problem and the characters efficiently and jump right into the action. After the first night at the place, it is revealed that the couple is being watched and that they cannot get out of there because the security system has blocked all the exits. They also start receiving weird orders from a voice, which orders them to perform tasks focused on improving their marriage, and disobedience carries painful punishments.

The efficiency with which everything essential to follow the plot is established and how well suggestions are used for not having to show everything helps the movie get a great rhythm from early on, which it keeps until the end. This frantic rhythm, in which something is always happening, is the best weapon the movie has to keep the viewer’s attention, and if we add that the script is good and the acting great, we are left with a dynamic and entertaining movie. The mystery of the purpose of the voice in the orders that it imparts is ever-present, but when everything is revealed, it all makes sense and carries a message in tune with the current times. 

“Held” shows a couple that rents a house but whose weekend doesn’t go as they intended as they are watched and later terrorized and forced to do certain things. It efficiently establishes the plot’s main problem, and from there, it catches at a fast pace and doesn’t let go until the end. The mystery about the purpose of the person that terrorizes them is always present, and the revelation of its intention is great, although the resolution opens some plot holes. Those who enjoy home invasion-type movies with tons of tension will enjoy this movie.

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