Review: Love, marriage, surveillance, torture in suspense thriller 'Held'

A couple are put through the wringer in horror movie from Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

A vacationing couple is put through a particularly grueling round of marriage counseling in "Held," a thriller that despite being clumsy manages to hold viewers' attention longer than anticipated. 

It's the kind of try-anything suspense tale that throws so much out there it tends to morph into something new every 15 minutes or so.

Jill Awbrey in "Held."

It starts off with Emma Barrett (Jill Awbrey, who wrote the film) being driven to a vacation home in an extremely remote location. No one is around for miles, and her driver asks a few too many questions and acts a little too creepy. Better keep an eye on him. 

When her husband Henry (Bart Johnson) arrives, it's clear there's a wedge between them, and they're not rekindling their romance as planned. By the morning, they realize there's been an intruder in their house overnight, and they're being watched via camera, like last year's Airbnb-from-hell horror movie "The Rental." 

Then they hear a voice that sounds like Jigsaw from the "Saw" films, telling them to "obey" him and that "disobedience has consequences." It seems that while they were sleeping they were outfitted with electric shock mechanisms behind their ears, and the voice is instructing them to revert to antiquated roles of husband and wife, a la Ward and June Cleaver. Just what is going on here?   

"Held" has a few more tricks up its sleeve, and it's got moxie, along with a twist that recalls the hatch in "Lost" and a modern subversion of traditional gender roles and #MeToo ideology.

Directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing ("The Gallows") don't pull it all off, but even if they're swinging and missing, they're swinging. In a movie world that often feels bereft of ideas, their problem is they have a few too many. 

'Held'

GRADE: C

Not rated: Violence, language, sexual situations

Running time: 93 minutes

In theaters

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama