Brea Grant writes and stars in a mostly-successful thriller about a woman trying to hold herself together as her world falls apart.
One early scene in Natasha Kermani’s horror-thriller Lucky features a tracking shot following protagonist May (played by screenwriter Brea Grant) walking to her car in an empty parking garage. There’s a foreboding sense that May is not alone even as the garage is seemingly deserted; a contemporary counterpart to the haunted gothic mansion. Fear and danger are everywhere, and nowhere.
After this establishing scene, Lucky follows May, a self-help writer, as she is hunted and haunted by a mysterious and seemingly paranormal masked man (Hunter C. Smith), who breaks into her home to kill her. At first, May has her husband Ted (an aloof Dhruv Uday Singh) to help her keep watch, but after May confronts Ted when he seems to know more about the man, Ted storms off and disappears for days. At first, May tries to maintain a sense of normalcy by staying in her own home and working, with help from her assistant Edie (Yasmine Al-Bustami) and sister-in-law Sarah (Kauser Mohammed). But as the man’s attacks move from nightly occurrences to attacks in broad daylight, May realizes she’ll have to fight back.
Kermani maintains a taut and chilling tension throughout Lucky; the man’s sudden appearance and disappearance, seemingly at will, makes him a constant source of fear, even when off-screen. The score by Jeremy Zuckerman highlights this tension with high-pitched strings blended with ominous vocals.
Director of photography Julia Swain uses shadow to obfuscate setting and character, visually echoing May’s sense of confusion and fear. The masked man is eerie and distorts Smith’s visage instead of hiding it. It turns out the mask was a practical prop (designed by Jeff Farley), rather than a CGI effect like I originally thought, which makes the distorting effect all the more fascinating.
While the scares are there, the plot robs Lucky of a truly cathartic ending. Grant’s script seems more like a vignette from a horror anthology stretched to an 80-minute runtime rather than a feature film. While Kermani and team do a great job building up the suspense, the ending is a bit of a letdown, with a big reveal more appropriate to a 30 minute short rather than a feature film. After an hour and twenty minutes with May, the abrupt ending doesn’t feel satisfying.
Grant’s performance is an excellent depiction of a woman trying to keep herself together as her world falls apart. The narrative is ambiguous as to whether or not this is a hallucination, or if it’s actually helping, and Grant plays May with heaps of relatable frustration and anger. The movie wears its feminism squarely on its sleeve, directly tackling the constant threat of violence women face day-to-day and the way women are infantilized by others.
Grant’s performance is an excellent depiction of a woman trying to keep herself together as her world falls apart.
After multiple attacks by the man, the police assign May to multiple caseworkers, assuming she wouldn’t be able to take care of herself. This comes to a head in one of the best scenes in the film, where a legion of caseworkers, police, and EMTs swarm May to tell her what is best for her, talking over May and each other. It’s surreal and yet feels entirely too believable.
But while the theme surrounding the fear of violence women experience, coupled with the way their fears are hand waved away, there are other metaphoric avenues glanced at but not explored. The title of May’s book is called Go It Alone, and so often May refuses help from (and providing help to) other women.
One would expect that the character would grow, Grant placing so much emphasis on this idea that a woman should be an army of she. But May doesn’t seem to grow much as the story progresses. She basically ends as the same strong character she started as. This would be fine for a short, which could have relied on the premise and thrills alone, but it feels like a missed opportunity as a full-length movie.
Despite the issues in the script, Kermani and May do a great job building an engaging thriller, combining the home invasion and slasher subgenres into something that feels new. As long as you go into Lucky with the understanding the ending may not give you all the answers you want, it will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Lucky is currently streaming on Shudder.