It only takes a few minutes into Natasha Kermani and Brea Grant’s metaphorical home invasion flick before you realize the subversive ride you’re in for. May (Brea Grant) is woken in the night by an intruder (Hunter C. Smith), and after waking her husband Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh) in a panic, he responds, “Honey, that’s the man. The man that comes every night and tries to kill us.”
His delivery is nonchalant, almost annoyed as if she should know this, and he’s right: the man proceeds to come back each night in classic time-loop fashion. Ted isn’t the only one who acts strange and as the nights progress and others dismiss her claims, May sets out on a path to discover her own answers.
That search for understanding is where the story finds its best moments, the film’s first leg leaving us as confused and exhausted as May. During the day, she attempts to confide in family, police officers, social workers, who frequently reply in either abrasive or unconcerned remarks (reminiscent of the house guests in Aronofsky’s “mother!”). And by night, she takes that frustration into her altercations with the killer.
There is a wonderful surrealness in this portion like we’re in a dream dangling on the edge of becoming a nightmare. Jeremy Zuckerman’s off-kilter score really gets to shine here, moving from spacey synths to frantic strings and everything in-between, and the confident camerawork from Kermani and DP Julia Swain both locks us with May and acts as a menacing presence she can’t shake.
Unfortunately, the film’s second half proves with each unsubtle reveal to lose more of its climatic promise. The masked psycho becomes less frightening with each brief run-in, and the film leaves little left to surprise with as we recognize the story’s themes much sooner than our protagonist.
As the movie gives way to a more traditional horror finale, it becomes clear that though horror is the vehicle through which this story should be told, the execution of the drama/horror unintentionally abandons its best scares through its obviousness.
Luckily, the dramatic side holds up its end of the bargain thanks to a determined performance from Grant whose swirling irritation and fear ground the audience in the story’s reality.
The script cleverly utilizes career stress and marital issues to work in parallel with the break-in horror, ultimately giving way to the struggles women face in an oppressive world that constantly undermines them. Grant’s expressive performance never lets you forget that fight and the scars each battle leaves.
In the end, ‘Lucky’ is both the acknowledgement of and a confrontation against a sexist system, and in many ways it succeeds at being both. The metaphorical nature of the horror may have yanked out some of its teeth, but the committed efforts of the cast and crew alike ensure that the weight of the subject matter isn’t lost and carries its own frights past the runtime.
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