REVIEW: Captive (2020)

dir. Savvas Christou.

It’s been said that producing a satisfying conclusion to a horror film is the most challenging thing to accomplish in the genre. With an ending which allows audiences to exhale whilst also unravelling the twists and turns of often ambiguous narrative strands Captive, alternatively titled as Katherine’s Lullaby, boasts a final 10 minutes that would have M. Night Shyamalan shaking his head with incredulity. But does the rest of the film warrant the explosive finale? Or have audiences already been held hostage for too long?

Lily (Tori Kostic) has finally escaped her abusive father and is on the run with her boyfriend in the expansive American wilderness. Fatefully naïve and ill-equipped, the couple begin to argue and it’s not long before Lily is left stranded, fearing for her life. Against all odds, she comes across an isolated homestead and finds her saviour in the form of Evan (William Kircher), a man who recognises Lily as his own estranged daughter.

As an exercise in tension, Captive fails to capitalise on its high-concept stripped-back premise. The danger fails to ever feel immediate due, in part, to inconsistent characters and bizarre narrative choices that defuse any escalating suspense. Evan is too simpering and kindly to ever provoke fear whilst is Lily very defiant, resulting in a dynamic which feels more akin to bickering roommates than kidnapper and victim. It’s only as this relationship develops that the performances begin to make sense; however, rather than strengthen the premise, it highlights its glaring deficiencies.

There are, however, some admirably attempts to navigate the residual trauma from abuse suffered at the hands of a parent. Fleeting flashbacks allow for glimpses of a past life that haunts Lily and one that she refuses to be victim of again. Evan’s personal history is also hinted at, which somewhat explains his actions and why he’s desperate to keep his “daughter” locked up. Unfortunately, the themes presented are merely afterthoughts, abandoned at the first opportunity. Rather than an uncompromising meditation on survival and recovery, the result is a confused, thinly veiled melodrama.

Ultimately, Captive fails to captivate, and whilst the final beats are unexpectedly innovative there is little to keep audiences compelled until that point.

Alex Kronenburg

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