Love doesn’t. That’s for sure.
Jackie (Hannah Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen) have been together for quite some time and to commemorate their moment of sticking with it, they decide to head out to Jackie’s cabin in the middle of the woods. It’s large, nice, spacious, and absolutely separated from the rest of society, which is great if all you want is a little peace and quiet. But it’s bad if you are, I don’t know, on the run and possibly in fear for your life from your girlfriend, who also turns out to be a savage killer and psychopath who will stop at nothing to protect her good name. This is the problem that Jules runs into, literally, and she know has to do whatever she can to stay alive while her girlfriend hunts her down and tries to erase all of the evidence of them ever being a couple in the first place.
What Keeps You Alive is basically High Tension, but without that cheap ending and much more style. Sure, it’s not nearly as gory, or even as trashy, but it plays around with revenge-thriller genre-tropes where we have an idea of where a story is going to go, see it happen, but for some reason, still feel like we’re seeing something new and exciting. That isn’t to say that What Keeps You Alive is predictable and conventional – it’s just that it’s been done-to-death by now and it takes a lot of strength, originality and vigor to make it feel like a brand new pair of shoes.
Instead, it feels like a pair of shoes we haven’t worn in a few years, but fits well enough to walk around in.
Poor analogy, I know, but hear me out: What Keeps You Alive works mostly because it’s got enough energy to keep itself from falling apart. Writer/director Colin Minihan keeps things moving at a steady pace, where we feel the electricity and the danger of the plot and never knowing just quite what’s going to happen next. In fact, you may think that the plot-synopsis is something of a spoiler, but it’s not; the plot gets underway about 15 minutes in and after that, it’s a terrifyingly fun game of cat-and-mouse between a skilled and psycho feline, and scared rodent.
And that’s mostly What Keeps You Alive is: It’s fast, fun and thrilling enough to work as the kind of movie we’ve seen a lot of before, yet somehow, still feels a little fresh and polished. Minihan always keeps us in the dark of where this story may lead-up and does throw a few surprises at us every so often, to where we think we’re in the work of a creator who knows what his audience expects and does what he can to surprise them every so often. It doesn’t always happen, of course, but when it does, it’s something a treat and makes What Keeps You Alive compelling.
Even when it really isn’t about much else except for this cat-and-mouse game, unfortunately.
We get some inkling of a deep character-development to Jackie and why she is the way she is, but it never goes too far enough. Jules herself never gets much development either, but then again, she doesn’t really need it; we feel bad that she’s in this awful situation in the first place, so what the hell with a few scenes about her childhood help us do? But still, a little something more alongside the running, the chasing and the killing would have helped make it seem like more than just another horror-thriller.
But oh well. Can’t have it all. Just enjoy it.
Consensus: A tad route, but also compelling and thrilling, What Keeps You Alive remains an enjoyable slice of tension, even when it seems like we’ve seen numerous iterations of it done before.
6.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: IFC Films