Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing (director)
21 October 2020 (released)
23 October 2020
You could eat your meals of Held if it was possible to do so; it looks so sterile and clean. The perfect house in the wilderness completely automated for the modern family or as is the case with Emma (Jill Awbery) and Henry Barrett (Bart Johnson) a couple who are looking to get away from things and sort themselves out.
Getting comfortable they get down to some serious drinking from the wines in the cellar and whiskey to finish off. Ready for bed and Emma is taken dizzy while plugging in her mobile and put to bed by Henry who also begins to feel woozy or drunk.
While asleep a masked person enters the room and puts a night-gown on Emma. Waking up she finds coffee ready for them and her mobile is missing. Henry has no idea; ‘they had a lot to drink’. There’s a phone call that simply states ‘Obey us’. Which they do as they have been fitted with devices that inflict excruciating pain.
What follow is the couple being assigned the ‘traditional’ roles of husband and wife, wearing garments that hark back to what some in the US felt was the golden age of family life. The absurdity of living in the 1950’s in an ultra-modern house is compounded when secrets are revealed via a laptop. All the time the mysterious voice spouting gibberish about true love and traditional values. Any escape attempts are dealt with ruthlessly.
There is a wonderful symmetry between black humour, satire and violence in Held and you get the feeling that directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing were having a ball working with Jill Awbery’s excellent script: ridiculing certain aspects of American society with the darker awareness that there are some who would want, and advocate, a return to that era.
The fluid direction and storytelling give ample scope for the camera to work with different perspectives and angles. This is brilliantly complemented by the superb sound design: the blips and bleeps of the house’s systems as they are activated and de-activated along with Richard Breakspear’s score result in a sonic and visual experience that could almost be an installation.
But as tech heavy as it is, it doesn’t smother the story, although there is a sense that you know where this is going. The solid performances and the believability of the scenario ensure that’s is not overwhelmed.
Held had its World Premiere on 21 October at the Arrow Video FrightFest