Horror has always been a genre that reflects its times. In the wake of #MeToo and an increased focus on the experiences and the prominence of women, both in the film industry and more generally, we have seen female writers and directors seek to fold those themes into genre cinema. Perhaps the most notable examples being the recent remakes of Black Christmas (directed by Sophia Takal) and The Craft (directed by Zoe Lister-Jones). With Lucky, writer/star Brea Grant and director Natasha Kermani (Imitation Girl) aren’t reinterpreting one specific text through that lens, rather they’re filtering a whole subgenre: the slasher.
May (Grant) is a writer just finishing her book tour. One night, she wakes to see a masked man outside her house. When she wakes her husband Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh) he seems nonplussed, confusing May by telling her ‘that’s the guy who shows up every night to try to kill us’. As Ted said, the attacks continue night after night, the same pattern always unfolding; May injures or kills the assailant, but as soon as she turns away to call the Police, his body vanishes. The attacks continue, at first night after night, but then even during the day, and May’s world gets more surreal as she tries to get help.
Brea Grant, also recently excellent in The Stylist and After Midnight, is obviously well served by her screenplay. The balance of making this surreal series of events play as totally real from May’s perspective is a tricky one, especially when combined with the more on the nose political moments, but Grant executes it all beautifully. She’s backed up by a solid supporting cast, most of whom drift in and out of the narrative. Dhruv Uday Singh is effectively unnerving as Ted; like most of the male cast walking a line between making the film’s male figures feel slightly off without being overtly threatening.
At first, there is an almost absurdist feel to Lucky; a Groundhog Day like loop of attacks, disappearing corpses and encounters with a cop (Larry Cedar) who, if not entirely brushing them off, doesn’t do a lot to listen to or address May’s concerns. The play with genre convention here is fun, especially the way the film acknowledges that the body of ‘The Man’ vanishes the instant that May looks away from it. However, as we get deeper into the film and it begins to develop its themes, the absurdist touches become less funny than they are disturbing.
Ultimately, Lucky strikes me as a film about how and why women feel they have to be wary of men. All men. Grant’s screenplay is, in the third act, somewhat prone to stating this message in words of one syllable, but it’s not hard to see why. This is something that women have, I think, been trying to tell men for a very long time, and there’s a point at which, if we choose not to get the message, it needs to be explained very clearly. To the film’s credit, it doesn’t simply lay its case out by talking at us, rather Grant and Kermani visualise it in a series of powerful and striking ways, not least a sequence in a car park, lit like a neon soaked giallo, in which we observe woman after woman being attacked by faceless, nameless, men. This sequence is horrifying for the dialogue between May and her assistant, acknowledging that they are too engaged fighting their own battles to protect all these other women as much as for the graphic depiction of what the film seems to be saying many women are picturing and preparing for a lot of the time: the worst case scenario.
Lucky works as an unconventional slasher, but it’s a lot more, and arguably a lot more important, than that. Rather than just having it be a theme you can engage with if you want to, Grant and Kermani weave the film’s politics into its every thread; the plot is powered by the theme and vice versa. It’s a disturbingly timely film (indeed I saw many of things it is saying echoed by commentary on an ongoing murder case when I logged on to Twitter minutes after watching the film), but as heavy as the themes are the fim often wears them lightly, making it a highly entertaining, as well as thought provoking, watch.