Horror and homosexuality have a complicated relationship. For a deeper dive into the subject, I highly recommend checking out the Celluloid Closet documentary, or the tome by Vito Russo that inspired it. Hollywood hasn’t done a very good job as separating an LGBTQ character’s queerness from the horror they may wrought, leaving a legacy of queer villains who played into stereotypes and also the general public’s misunderstanding of LGBTQ persons.
In the new horror film, What Keep You Alive, writer/director Colin Minihan flips that narrative on its head, creating a dark and terrifying thriller where the two lead characters are lesbians, but their queerness has nothing to do with what happens throughout the film. The movie could have starred a male couple or a male and female couple, but it doesn’t, and that’s also important.
We meet Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen) as they are heading to Jackie’s family’s lakehouse to celebrate their one year wedding anniversary. By all accounts, Jackie and Jules seem like a happy couple. Jules is enamored by the rustic lakehouse and very much still smitten with her bride. As the evenings pass, Jackie begins sharing some disturbing stories from her past, and Jules starts feeling that something is off. When a neighbor who calls Jackie by a different name stops by to check on the house, it causes a rift between the couple and shortly thereafter, Jackie commits a heinous crime. Or so she thinks. The remainder of the movie is Jules trying to escape with her life and understand why her loving wife would try to kill her. It’s nearly impossible to not give away plot points, but suffice to say, Jackie’s cold-blooded machinations have nothing to do with her queer identity and everything to do with how she is wired. Or as Jackie says, “it’s nature, not nurture.”
Hannah Emily Anderson is spectacular and utterly terrifying as Jackie who must keep up a facade until it suits her, and whose bloodlust is only matched by her cunning ways. Brittany Allen is the kind of final girl you can’t help but root for. As Jules she’s outwitted and devastated, but has the will to survive like no other.
If you can’t stand the sight of blood, then you’ll want to skip What Keep You Alive. But if you love twisty, chilling movies, and long for a lesbian final girl, then you’ll definitely want to check this out. Oh, and watch until the very last second. Trust me.