May (Brea Grant), the protagonist of Lucky, suffers the condescending disinterest of the police, reductionist head-shrinking of social workers, and emotional manipulation and gaslighting of her partner (Dhruv Uday Singh). Oh, and she also gets attacked by a masked man every night of her life.
Lucky, written by Grant and directed by Natasha Kermani, is a lean (perhaps too lean) horror satire that imagines society’s patriarchy, microaggressions, and trauma as a surreal nightmare cycling again and again with no end in sight. As far as “social horror” goes, it’s a pretty perfect premise.
The film starts as a fresh twist on an old favorite. May and her husband Ted are attacked in their home by an intruder in the middle of the night. Only, Ted is shockingly nonplussed by the situation. In fact, he says as much, claiming that this happens every night. It is a home invasion slasher inside of a time loop (of sorts). But don’t go straight to the Happy Death Day comparisons. This loop is not a 24-hour cycle reiterated in perpetuity; it is a nightmarish, otherworldly life in which May is trapped, continuing to move through time while under constant threat. And no one seems willing to listen to what she’s saying, let alone attempt to help at all.
After dealing with thoroughly un-thorough police, May and Ted get into an argument that culminates in Ted exiting stage right and leaving May on her own. And what follows is a series of attack sequences, where the masked intruder returns and May must best him, only to witness him disappear into thin air each time she bludgeons him, stabs him, etc.
The genre send-up only has so much gas in the tank—the sub-90 minute runtime and repetitious set pieces leave something to be desired. But the genre experimentation is armed for the sake of a compelling and novel take on the dynamic between the archetypal horror heroine and her killer counterpart. With countless other horror films out there which explore this dynamic, it is a treat when one brings new flare to the conventions and utilizes them in meaningful ways. Even if the film doesn’t come together perfectly in the end.
This is the best I’ve seen Grant perform. And her script weaves an intriguing web that unfolds with a deliberate pace and produces some effective deadpan humor. (Grant also directed a recent film, 12 Hour Shift, which I did not get a chance to review but is certainly worth seeking out). Lucky does start to unravel in its final act, when the rules of the diegetic world begin to break down within the confines of the surreal environment. All the same, the message of the film—illustrated in pointed lines of dialogue—rings loud and clear. It is satire by way of blunt instrument, and it worked for me.
The parts help to bolster the whole here, too. The devilish score from Jeremy Zuckerman is a highlight. Clever shot construction from Kermani and DP Julia Swain keep the set pieces from feeling overly redundant. And one visual effect goes a long way in putting an emphatic punctuation mark on the film.
As always, thanks for reading!
—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)