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Captive (2020) Review

Captive opens with Lily (Tori Kostic, Altergeist) and Neil (Jarius Carey, Beverly Hills Bandits) in the woods. Lily has a very noticeable bruise on her forehead. Given the film’s title (it was shot and played festivals as Katherine’s Lullaby) the first assumption is he is responsible. And this is only the first time this film will have you making false assumptions. As it turns out, it was her stepfather, whom she’s running away from, who gave her it and several others.

When Neil goes to find water and doesn’t return, Lily panics. He has her phone so she can’t call for help, so she goes looking. She finds a house, but instead of help, she soon finds herself locked in a closet. The house’s owner, Evan (William Kircher, The Axiom, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) thinks she’s his daughter Katherine (Meghan Hanako) who ran away due to his treatment of her. Can she manage to keep him convinced and stay alive long enough to escape?

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Once you get past the unlikely coincidence of her running from one abuser right into the secluded house of another, Captive has an intriguing story to tell. It’s a psychological thriller that seems simple enough at first glance. A young woman is being held captive by a deranged and possibly dangerous man and needs to escape. But as the story unfolds we see things aren’t as simple as they first seem.

Yes, there’s the obvious spectre of sexual assault hanging over things. Especially when Evan puts the exercise mats on the floor and tells her “It’s time to get started. Lie down”. But where everything goes from there is a constantly shifting, and unpredictable narrative with at least one, if not two, unreliable narrators.

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Much of what we know, or think we know, about the characters and the background to their situations, comes from flashbacks, dreams and a diary. The flashbacks to Evan’s life with Katherine and her now deceased, (via a car accident), mother Ivy (Jolene Andersen, Attack of the Unknown, Prodigy) are especially enlightening.

Done poorly, this kind of scene can feel gimmicky and pull you right out of a film. That’s just one of several risks writer/director Savvas Christou takes with Captive’s story. Thankfully, he incorporates them into the narrative rather than just shoehorning them in to provide exposition.

If it seems I’m being deliberately vague, it’s because I am. Captive works because you don’t know what’s coming, or what to expect. The film shifts our perspectives and, at times, even our sympathies in ways I wasn’t expecting. It even takes the risk of making Evan appear sympathetic, though not harmless, at times.

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Similarly, we’re made to question who is manipulating who and whether Lily is such an innocent victim at points along the way. Trying to sort it all out isn’t easy as Captive keeps pulling the rug out from under the viewer right up to an ending that I didn’t, and you won’t, see coming.

A slow-burning psychological thriller, Captive won’t be for everyone. Low on action and gore, it’s driven by plot, dialogue and two excellent performances from the leads. If that is your kind of movie, this will hit the spot.

Captive is available on VOD and streaming platforms from Vertical Entertainment. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more information.

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