Evaluation: ‘Held’ lacks the brains and panache to get stinging social satire


The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic . Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we help remind readers to follow health and safety suggestions as outlined by the Centers regarding Disease Control and Avoidance plus neighborhood health officials .

There is something particularly frustrating in regards to a horror movie that has an excellent premise, poorly executed. The home invasion thriller “Held” starts out with a genuinely good idea: blending the “obey an hidden master” gimmick of “Saw” with the “how to be a best spouse” social satire of “The Stepford Wives. ” But it lacks the cleverness or the panache to give the schtick the proper zing.

Jill Awbrey wrote the “Held” script and also stars as Emma, a woman looking forward to a relaxing retreat at a remote rental home with the girl husband Henry (Bart Johnson). Where they’re staying is certainly elegant and modern, with high-tech appliances and protection systems. It also — unknowingly to Emma — includes its own masked creep, who have pops out at night to drug and imprison the guests.

Once the couple wakes up after their first woozy evening, their particular clothes have been changed to something more conservative and they’ve been locked in. Shortly, the masked man barks orders, demanding they face their failures as couple — and that they playact as an old-fashioned family with the girl subservient to the man.


Awbrey and the movie’s co-directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing take time to establish a design of sexist harassment toward Emma: from a ride-share motorist who pressures her for the tip to the way Henry seems to take her regarding granted. Emma’s bizarre situation is really an amplification from the heavy expectations that consider on her every day.

While the heroine’s circumstances are usually reasonably well-drawn, the rest of “Held” is under-imagined — and pretty predictable. The “ideal couple” exercises Emma and Henry get pushed straight into aren’t exaggerated enough to become as nightmarishly unsettling as they should be and the plot’s big twist is easy to see coming. Even when the film requires a violent turn, those moments aren’t especially exciting or even disturbing.

This particular movie’s most interesting elements are usually in the setup. Once the figures are in the house and the capture gets sprung, the story stalls. Given what it’s regarding, “Held” could’ve cut further. Instead, it barely arrives the surface.


Not scored

Running time: one hour, 34 minutes

Playing: Starts April 9, Vineland Drive-in, City of Industry; and limited release where movies building are open; also available on digital and VOD;