Captors was shot in 2020 under the title Alone and retitled to avoid confusion with two other films shot that year including John Hyams’ excellent thriller with which it shares a few similarities.
As Captors opens, Alys (Yulia Klass, Death Rider in the House of Vampires, Survive the Game) is in a session with Dr. Nera (Michelle Burke, Dazed and Confused, Coneheads). Ten years ago she was held captive by a rapist and serial killer (Bruce Davison, Evil at the Door, The Manor). She escaped but for some reason, the memory of how has been repressed and the PTSD she suffers, as a result, has left her homeless and unable to function.
Running out of options and having to deal with a landlord who is demanding favours to cover her back rent, Alys seems to have caught a break when a lawyer (Michael Paré, Lockdown, The Debt Collector) tells her that she’s inherited a large house out in the woods from a relative she never knew she had, Silas Visler. And if that sounds like it should be a sign to run like hell, that’s because it is.
Trapped in the snowy Michigan woods miles from anywhere and the food tainted with hallucinogenics Alys must force herself to remember what happened to her in that house years before if she wants to get out alive. Which means exploring it and confronting the memories that are unleashed. And facing the prospect that Silas may not be as dead as he wants her to believe.
Writer Philip Daay (White Sky, Left in Darkness) and director James Cullen Bressack (Fortress, Blood Craft) set up a pretty familiar situation reasonably efficiently. Once the setup and a couple of cameos to get names to put on the poster are out of the way Captors settles into what is basically a one-woman show. With decidedly mixed results
Captors’ problems start right at the beginning of the film. Alys is supposed to be impoverished, working the streets and selling her blood to survive, as well as being six months behind on her rent. But she looks like a model, all perfect skin, hair and makeup. It takes much more than putting a shirt with a couple of holes on a skinny actress to create a convincing illusion of extreme poverty and mental illness.
The script’s references to Alice in Wonderland, ranging from the character’s name, hallucinogenic visions including a sign saying “Welcome to Playland” and a DVD that says “Play me”, just as that story’s bottle said “Drink me” are intriguing. But Captors never really does anything with them, wasting an opportunity to break out of a rather tired pattern.
Bressack has proven himself as a director over the years, even managing to get a good performance from late-career Bruce Willis. He does manage to pull some scares out of Captors. An early episode where Alys thinks she sees a creature in the woods has an Evil Dead feel to it. And some of the final scenes where she’s being stalked through the house whether by Silas or a spectre work nicely as well.
Unfortunately, the script just doesn’t give him much to work with, especially when it comes to the film’s antagonist. Silas is/was an evil bastard with plenty of villainous potential, but he’s left undeveloped. Bressack has said in interviews that he saw the character as an S&M version of the Saw franchise’s John Kramer. Apart from the fact that actual rape and murder have fuck all to do with S&M it’s an interesting concept but isn’t fleshed out. A tacked-on scene with his son (Josh Kelly, Boo, One Life to Live), and an epilogue don’t help matters either.
While it has its moments and isn’t painful to watch Captors isn’t a particularly good film either. Both the writer and director can, and have, done better. It might do as filler when you’re out of other options, but that’s about it.
Captors is available in the US from Lionsgate, High Fliers will release it in the UK on August 22nd. And if that isn’t quite what you were looking for, FilmTagger has some ideas that might keep you captivated.