A married couple’s Airbnb getaway takes a toxic turn

Film by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

April 9

 2 out of 5

While #metoo has been going strong since 2017, it’s only recently that the movement has crystallized into a true cinematic form. Superhero flicks such as  Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman 1984 are now targeting toxic masculinity, and  voices we seldom heard before (the teen unable to get a legal abortion, the office assistant forced to cover for her a-hole boss) are anchoring heavy dramas. Heck, there’s even a proper Best Picture nominee — Promising Young Woman — with a good shot at taking home the golden statuette at the Oscars.

The reckoning is reaching every genre and budget tier, including indie horror, a subcategory better known for being more exploitative than woke. Held is a perfect example. We meet Emma (Jill Awbrey) on her way to an ultra-modern vacation rental in the middle of nowhere. Two bits of background are offered: she’s a survivor of sexual assault, and her marriage to Henry (Bart Johnson) is going through a rough patch. The trip is a half-hearted effort to rekindle the romance.

If Airbnb horror (You Should Have Left, The Rental) has taught us anything, it’s that there’s always someone watching. In this case, a Jordan Peterson-type who’s obsessed with solving whatever is ailing the couple. And he’s not going to let them go until he does.

Credit where credit’s due. Awbrey wrote Held for herself, and succeeded in breaking through the independent cinema limbo to obtain distribution. Unfortunately, movies like Held live and die by The Twist™, and one can guess pretty early where this one is going. The focus then shifts to what the movie is saying, and the answer is: nothing new.

Held isn’t going to challenge anybody’s views (no alpha-wannabe will watch it and say “maybe I’m just a jerk. I must change my ways”). But the combination of cheap thrills and a tight 90 minute length may just hit the spot.