What Keeps You Alive (2018)

Happy Pride Month, everybody! June will be dedicated to movies with overly queer content or were made by queer creators (a distinction that will come up later). I’m going to start this all off by doing something different: I enjoyed What Keeps You Alive. It has moments where the story has problems if you think about the implications too hard, but it’s a tense thriller that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. That being said, the trailer revealed way too much–they always do–and while not spoiling everything, I’m going to talk a lot about the story in this post. So if you want to see a thriller about a woman discovering what secrets her wife has been keeping from her, go check it out on Netflix. And with that out of the way, let’s dive in!

What Keeps You Alive, a title my brain refuses to remember correctly, focuses on Jules (Ms. Brittany Allen) who is visiting the childhood cabin of her wife, Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) on their one year wedding anniversary. A chance encounter with one of Jackie’s old friends reveals that Jackie’s been keeping secrets from Jules. Normally these would and/or could be things a couple could work out, but Jackie would rather push Jules off a cliff. Like you do.

Yeah, that moment about 25 minutes in was quite a shock to me. Jules survives, but the movie becomes a game of cat and mouse with her trying to outmaneuver her murderous wife. Jackie is some flavor of sociopath and this isn’t her first dalliance with murder. I won’t spoil the ending, but the film is consistently tense after that cliff scene without relying too heavily on gore. Sure, not everyone makes it out alive, but it never felt to me like a “torture porn” film.

The film has a cast of 5–one of whom only appears at the very end–with the majority of the film focusing on Jules and Jackie. It reminded me a lot of Honeymoon, which had a cast of two, technically four, and then some extras as aliens. There’s a moment around the end of the second act where Jules manages to escape, and seeing her in her car on the side of the road reminded me of the end of The Descent, which in that movie turned out to be a dream/hallucination. Wouldn’t it be interesting if this movie tried something like that at one point? And while I’m referencing other movies, turns out this was written and directed by Colin Minihan, real life boyfriend to Brittany Allen and the writer of Spiral, another gay horror/thriller! Two posts in a row where I mention that movie, and I swear it was a happy coincidence.

The film is not perfect, though. The depths of Jackie’s sociopathy raises a lot of questions, ones she actively avoids answering most of the time. Spoiler from the trailer, but Jules is not her first wife, but now I have questions about that. Did you wait to kill your previous spouses/victims on your one year anniversary, like you tried with Jules? How long were you courting Jules before the offscreen wedding? Insert joke about lesbians hooking up too fast here. Back on topic, how much time did you spend with all the other women? There’s a YouTube comedy video I adore called “JP’s Girlfriends” where the ex-girlfriends of a douchebag corner him, one of whom is especially angry that he doesn’t remember her name. “We were married, asshole!” she shouts at him. “You’re describing, like, thirty women,” is part of his response, logic and marriage laws be damned. It sure seems like Jackie has been exceptionally busy meeting, dating, marrying, and then murdering women, all while hiding her intense sociopathy. Could it happen? Sure. Does it seem super likely? Enh, it’s my one flaw with this movie, so I won’t dwell on it.

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