25 Oct 2021
William Kircher, Tori Kostic
With Tori Kostic as Lily (the victim), William Kircher as Evan (the captor), and Meghan Hanako as Katherine (we’ll get to her), Katherine’s Lullaby—also known as Captive—rushes straight into its stock horror set-up without doing anything to establish its characters. Details come later, but they come playing catch-up.
Fleeing an abusive father, an attractive YA runaway is left alone in the woods by her boyfriend (who conveniently for the plot takes her phone with him). She stumbles across a creepy cabin with a creepier male occupant who locks her inside with a minimum of hassle, and voila, you’ve made a horror movie. In the main it’s an uninvolving desert of a genre flick—trite, clichéd and underwritten. It doesn’t scare either, with no jumps, no gore, relying on suspense which a familiar score of sonic rumbles struggles to amplify. Meanwhile, Savvas Christou’s direction can be described no more effusively than competent. It begs the question how something tracking so palpably into mediocrity could warrant any mention at all. The answer was a surprise—there was a bright idea waiting to emerge after all.
The hostage-horror archetype comes with ingrained viewer expectations, and because I’d been lulled—unintentionally rather than deliberately—into resignation, the seductive subversion of those expectations was a particular boon. How? Spoilers abundus. Evan, the male captor, is a schizophrenic who has sequestered Lily in the delusional belief that she is actually his estranged daughter Katherine. Lily gradually learns to play to this delusion with the intention of plotting an escape, but somewhere along the way something changes. Evan’s controlling love connects with this victim of patriarchal abuse, and by the time the real Katherine shows up, her deceptively street-wise double has come to the venomous decision to replace her.
It should be stressed that the execution of this denouement is not exempt from the flaws that delimit the rest of the production, hamstrung as it is by stagey performances, glaring plot holes, and, in one of its rare moments of violence, clumsy editing. And there’s definitely a more refined film to be made out of its Body Snatched-into-Body Snatcher narrative. However, as per the peak-end rule, a film that starts badly and ends well has the upper hand in any evaluation of its merits.