When the credits rolled on 2013’s Ritual, I couldn’t wait to see what came next from rookie director Mickey Keating. In my opinion, Ritual was (and still is) one of the most underrated horrors in recent memory. It was presented with a certain je ne sais quoi that lead me to several re-watches. I yearned for more. Keating’s latest film, POD, keeps that same undefinable quality, but cranks the aggression and suspense to the fucking max.

POD is incredibly simple on the surface. A brother and sister take an impromptu trip to the family cabin due to a message received from their mentally-ill brother. All three siblings exude extremely powerful personalities. Ed (Dean Cates) is presumably the eldest and acts as an overprotective parent figure to younger siblings Lyla and Martin. Lyla (Lauren Ashley Carter) is the youngest and has obvious struggles with drugs and alcohol, while Martin (Brian Morvant) is immediately identified as being on the brink of insanity. I can’t stress the strength of these performances enough. Each one of them delivers something that undoubtedly impacts the film for the better.

Beneath this seemingly routine story of intervention, though, is a chaotic web of confusion, lies, empathy, and doubt. You never know who (or what) to believe. Is POD a film about aliens? Maybe it’s about government conspiracies or mental illness. Maybe it’s about the lengths that people will go to for family. Maybe it’s about all of those things – or none of them. POD exhibits an uncanny ability to keep the viewer off balance. You think you know where things are going, but then you second guess yourself… and then you think you’re on the right track again, but aren’t totally sure. This is due in large part to the aforementioned performances, but Keating’s timeless style and presentation really seal the deal.

POD isn’t about a body count or gratuitous blood and gore. It is a gradual ascension into panic, and an incredibly affective one at that. There’s a new breed of horror directors beginning to emerge, and Keating has without a doubt earned his seat at the table. It’s very rare that I find myself speaking out loud during a film, but I absolutely let out a few nervous words and phrases during the film’s relatively short 1hr17min runtime. Don’t let POD’s brevity fool you, though. Think of it like getting the very best pieces of meat for your steak. There’s no filler, and it’s all delicious.

Yes – this entire review is mostly unbridled praise, but I sincerely hope you take that as a sign of the film’s strengths, and not any sort of ill-conceived leniency on my behalf. POD is a simple story that benefits greatly from a no-frills sort of presentation. It’s dry, it’s worrisome, and it’s absolutely worth your time. Put this one on your “must watch” lists. You won’t want to miss it.

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