Wednesday, December 21, 2016

PET: The Murder/Torture/Romance/Shocker of the Year

Pet is a movie where a creepy stalker man kidnaps a girl and keeps her in a cage.
If I had read that sentence earlier, I probably wouldn’t have watched this movie. This kind of torture-heavy, woman-in-danger stuff isn’t my horror subgenre of choice. I prefer scary movies that are funny (Return of the Living Dead), meta (Scream 4), and over-the-top (Leprechaun 3). Movies with super-realistic gore and Hostel-levels of torture just really don’t appeal to me.
So if you’re like me—if you were immediately turned off by that first sentence—then forget it. Go into Pet without any knowledge of what to expect. Trust me. It will surprise you with its weird plot twists and reversals. To say that the movie veers off into uncharted terrain is an understatement. Pet starts as one movie, blows your mind at the half-way point, and then spends the last twenty minutes freaking you out. At different times, this movie is a stalker drama, a jet black comedy, a slasher, and a profoundly twisted love story. To say anything more would ruin the fun.
Such a Frankensteinian lump of genres could easily go off the rails, and it’s only thanks to our two leads that the movie is as cohesive as it is. Dominic Monaghan is the sad sack stalker, and he’s the saddest, sackiest stalker in cinema. Depending on your genre interests, you might know Monaghan as Charlie from Lost, or perhaps as your third favorite hobbit from the Lord of the Rings movies. He’s tiny and unassuming and his facial expressions bounce between creepy and sad with regularity.
Ksenia Solo stars as the girl in the cage, and she is an actress to look out for. She’s mostly known for TV stuff that I’ve never seen (Lost Girl, Orphan Black), but hopefully she’ll try a few more horror films in the future. She’s got the scream queen chops, for sure.
Aside from the acting, the make-up effects are top-notch, the music is wall-to-wall tense, and director Carles Torrens (this is his first full-length English movie) somehow manages to film this tiny cage from all the most interesting angles. If I had one complaint, it would be that the first third of the movie doesn’t quite play fair. Once the mid-movie twist happens, a few earlier moments seem like cheats. The broad strokes make sense, but a few acting choices felt off. Perhaps a rewatch would make me change my mind, but I don’t think I have the stomach to watch this movie again. At least not for the next few days.
Despite all its twists, Pet is at its core a two-person drama. It may splatter you with blood, but there’s a surprising amount of empathy beating under the surface. If you are at all a horror fan, you should give this one a watch. It’s captivating.

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