Held is a clever home invasion-style thriller sure to create some buzz in the horror community. This latest endeavor from directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing kept me on the edge of my seat and stayed on my mind long past the closing credits.
In the beginning, we’re introduced to Emma Barrett (Jill Awbrey), who’s traveling to a rental for an anniversary weekend with her husband Henry (Bart Johnson). It’s clear that their marriage needs revival, and a weekend stay in a luxury Smart home might be the ticket.
However, things are not always what they seem, and after their first night in the house, the Barretts awaken to a living nightmare. The couple is held hostage in the home and forced to “Obey,” as directed by a mysterious voice. They are required to fulfill old-fashioned ideals of marriage and gender roles, and failure to comply is met with punishment. During this time, the flaws within their marriage come to light. Not only are they held in terror, but they are forced to endure the fear together while balancing other emotions. It’s a tricky thing to fight for survival while harboring anger and resentment toward your partner, and this is displayed so clearly in Held.
I find home invasion horror to be some of the most frightening, and this film has reinforced the notion. It’s terrifying to think of intruders and captors within one’s personal home, and almost more so to consider it could happen on an idyllic getaway trip. When safety is shattered at the hands of another human being, that’s often more frightening than a supernatural threat. Held rattled me as much as films like The Strangers and The Purge, but held its own weight in the sub-genre with a unique storyline.
The creep factor in Held fires on all cylinders—from the mysterious and haunting voice to how technology is turned against the couple. The tension builds at an excellent pace thanks to a combination of factors. The solid acting and the score both add to the atmosphere and the build-up, and the emotions are palpable at times. Awbrey and Johnson make a great team on camera. Their on-screen chemistry adds to the story’s believability and remains consistent from beginning to end. This was especially important since the film focused mostly on the two main characters, with few supporting roles. My empathy for the characters was enhanced by the strong acting and I experienced a range of emotions alongside them.
For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll save further details of the storyline. Just know that this is worth sticking around to the end, as there are layers to the story. It touches on a few main themes that are relevant to modern times and swept me up into the story within minutes.
I typically note both positive and negative aspects of a film for review, and I really had nothing notable to list in the latter category for this one. Held will be a contender for my list of favorite films this year, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more from Tremendum Pictures and also writer/actor Jill Awbrey.
9 out of 10