Sometimes an audience’s reaction to a horror film is as familiar as the elements they’re frightened of. Urging the final girl to call the police or get out of the house are pleas that will never age, so as long as a villain is wandering the halls or something continues to go bump in the night. This is precisely what Shudder’s new terror, Lucky, plays on, all the while highlighting an entirely different horror altogether. One that’s far more real than we care to admit, but what both the film’s writer and director take great care to focus on.
Sharing a similar schedule to Happy Death Day and looking at the same issues seen in The Invisible Man, Lucky sees a self-help author (Brea Grant) disturbed by an intruder in her home in the middle of the night. Naturally, she wakes her husband to the situation, who shrugs off the revelation, explaining that it’s the guy who regularly comes to try and kill them every night. So begins the first of many evening battles for survival for May as she continues to fend off her attacker day after day, police visit after police visit, with no way of escape in sight.
At this point, you’d be forgiven for becoming frustrated with the decisions being made. You may start to wonder if and when a cop will finally take May’s side and turn up to save the day; or why her friends don’t have her back against this ongoing occurrence. Good. This simply means Lucky‘s charm is working. It’s a bold tactic used by its writer and star Brea Grant, and while the execution is questionable, the point it’s trying to make starts to cut deeper and deeper like a frantically drawn kitchen knife, albeit after a good few swings at first.
As soon as May has her first domestic disturbance, director Natasha Kermani gets to work on setting up the tension, using the playground her heroine runs around as a critical ingredient. Like any credible kill-fest, Lucky‘s location is a character in itself that the director loves to explore. Its large windows show not only the looming danger outside, but also the gradual cracks beginning to show in its ‘arena of conflict’ – tight corridors and exposed rooms, perfect for fights to the death. Add Jeremy Zuckerman’s skull-boring score to the mix of attempted murder and vanishing villains, and Kermani demonstrates she’s more than capable of setting the right level of unease when it’s needed. Most importantly, though, her leading lady is capable of meeting it.
It becomes quickly apparent that Grant’s final girl has an edge against the competition and stands apart from other horror heroines. While confused about the whole ordeal, May feels like a solid individual, making her more relatable than most. If Happy Death Day’s Tree Gelbman got out of her own gory Groundhog Day and graduated, this is how she’d end up. Through and through a self-help specialist, she seems less desperate for help and more inconvenienced by the whole ordeal. It’s just a shame the supporting talent, and the interactions with them aren’t as solid.
As clever as Lucky‘s take on time loops may be, there are times when the film isn’t as bright as it thinks. Interactions between May and those aware of the situation feel sluggish and leave little impact in a story going for a different kind of shock. Important beats lack the sharper and almost self-aware dialogue to amplify the absurd horror May finds herself entangled in and the reasoning behind it all, making it feel limp to the point of distracting. Grant’s performance may help it to pull it out of these occasional ruts, but it’s still her script that got it there in the first place.
There may be some noticeable issues, but this is a horror that plays on the tropes to tell a story that will resonate with some viewers more than others. An impressive variant on the Groundhog Day formula, Kermani’s death loop might stand out more than most with a repeat viewing. Make sure you do. The message it’s trying to send is undoubtedly worth noting, and it’ll only get louder from here.
Lucky is now available on Shudder
We spoke to Brea Grant and Natasha Kermani about the film in Issue #2 of the JUMPCUT MAGAZINE – Click Here