Starring: Hannah Emily Anderson, Brittany Allen and Martha MacIsaac
Celebrating their first anniversary, married lesbian couple Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen) head to a remote cabin in the woods to do all your typical backwoods fodder like hunting, fishing, and love-making near a warm, roaring fire. Their stay is far from honey glows and blissfulness, however, when Jackie's old friend suddenly stopped by one night and addresses her by a different name, much to Jules' confusion and now growing suspicions.
It isn't long before it dawns on Jules that the woman she married wasn't entirely open about her life and a long, painfully strenuous and deadly nightmare awaits her as Jackie pushed her off a cliff one day. A nightmare that will only gets worse the moment she survives the fall...
While it is evident the people behind What Keeps You Alive (2018) were aiming to do a modern-psycho thriller, the film does generously borrow a lot of tropes and elements from backwoods slashers for its more horror-oriented moments. The plentiful stalk-and-chase sequences all over the woods echo the likes of your classic forest-set bodycounter climax, building up tension and intrigue as the plot further marches onward to venomous betrayals and psychopathic twists while maintaining a very basic yet stylized survival story in its core.
What makes this all work for me is that once the reveal is made, the fact that the villainess here is simply bad because she is bad, detached from any feeling of compassion and is simply malicious, is all the reason the film needed to keep going. She is a threat that one needed to survive against and escape from and nothing else, a simplicity that feels genuinely terrifying and thankfully didn't resort to cheapening the dynamics between her and their wife being queer as a cause or a tool for the killer's evil, a trope you normally get as a mean to punish or be the cause of one to turn knife-stabbing mad in a horror story. Everyone is simply a bear or a deer for her to hunt and this makes her the kind of driving force that keeps survival horror all that interesting, thrilling and fun.
Of course, What Keeps You Alive (2018) is far being flawless when one would consider the still numerous horror clichés thrown here and there, such as the number of times Jules could've escaped and not risk a deadly confrontation with her captor, or the real life inconsistencies and plot conveniences the writing suffers from. The quieter moments certainly have their shining moments of emotional baggage and development, but the horror side of the film is undoubtedly cheesed up on occasions, fortunately not enough to lessen the impact of its stronger, nerve-wrecking suspense scenes and the few yet brutal killings.
As it is for most backwoods horror films, What Keeps You Alive (2018) is simply gorgeous with its scenic mountainous backwoods and ever-going lake. The camerawork done for these shots greatly foreshadows how eminently isolated the whole place can get, thus the uselessness of getting any help soon or at all even, which adds to the strengths of the film's survival horror aspect. All in all, this is a solid survival thriller in its simplest and earnest, and sometimes that's all you need to have a fairly decent good time. A guaranteed watch!
1 male had his throat cut with a hunting knife
1 female stabbed to death with a hunting knife
1 female injected with tainted insulin, suffers a fatal stroke