Pet [SXSW Review]
In this Carles Torrens directed psychological thriller, we follow Seth (Dominic Monaghan) in his mundane existence until he encounters Holly (Ksenia Solo), a former high school classmate, on a bus. She’s clearly disinterested, but it’s sparked an obsession in Seth. An obsession that triggers stalking tendencies in Seth, and eventually leads to him holding Holly captive in a large dog cage in the tunnels below the animal shelter where he works. Holly harbors dark secrets of her own, though, and Seth may have bit off more than he can chew.
The screenplay, written by Jeremy Slater, begins in typical fashion. Socially awkward guy seems really sweet, but lonely. He then fixates on the object of his affection, it escalates once rejection hits, and then goes very, very badly. For most of the running time we’re right on track with this familiar story. Slater and Torrens take a detour from that blueprint, though, and attempt to give the familiar tale a face lift. It almost works.
Monaghan and Solo are experienced actors, and give their characters’ personalities that extend beyond the script. Seth is genial enough, loves animals, and displays traces of loneliness beneath the affable veneer. Holly, for her part, is struggling with her own personal issues without the added layer of an unwanted suitor. She’s pleasant yet firm in her feelings towards the men in her life. Despite the actors’ best, the screenplay ultimately does them a disservice when a huge reveal occurs roughly half way through.
It’s from this point on that the characters we’ve come to know seem to be completely different people than they were at the beginning. Which would be fine if the screenplay allowed for a more believable arch, but it’s far too interested in its twist to do the characters’ justice. The twist itself is a fascinating one, but it’s handled in far too blunt a manner to elicit the intended shock. It also marks the point where the psychological element in this thriller should fully kick in, but this too isn’t fully explored. It doesn’t help that a lot of the humor doesn’t stick, either.
For the most part, the film’s shoestring budget doesn’t hinder the presentation at all. It’s well shot and most of the blood and violence is believable. My one gripe with the sound is with a bizarre choice to include a looping, rhythmic dog bark in a song playing during one of the most intense sequences. It completely takes you out of the moment. Even if the setting is a dog filled animal shelter.
Slater and Torrens should be commended for trying something new. The very concept on which the film is based could have gone in so many worse ways. The idea of a horror film that finds its poor nice guy lock a scantily clad lady love in a cage could have been misogynistic or yet another torture porn. Instead they handle the concept with finesse and present an extremely interesting twist. It just doesn’t work as well as it should because it requires giant leaps of its characters. It’s a great idea that’s fairly well done, it just falls short of hitting its mark.
Pet [SXSW Review]
Boy meets girl. Boy locks girl in cage. Girl shocks with dark secret. Except, the character 180 dulls the twist, and the psychological aspect isn’t fully explored.