Respectful Reel Review #8

MOVIE TITLE:

Sweetheart

IMDB YEAR RELEASED:

2019

STARRING:

Kiersey Clemons, Emory Cohen, Hanna Mangan-Lawrence, Andrew Crawford, Benedict Samuel

DIRECTED BY:

J. D. Dillard

SUMMARY:

After Jenn washes ashore on a small, deserted, tropical island, not only must she survive exposure and hunger, but there is a malevolent creature that not only threatens her life, but makes her question her sanity.

Plot:

Jenn and her injured friend Brad wash up on a deserted tropical island, but very soon after, Brad dies. He’d been deeply impaled by a conch shell, and barely conscious. The audience knew he was not long for this world. After making a quick circuit around the beach, it becomes clear that this is a very small island.

When Jenn walks through the interior of the island, she finds that a family had once been stranded there. She examines there belongings, and finds some useful items such as a tarp, a flare gun, and rope. She also finds a clearing where all but one of the family members was buried. She buries Brad’s body, and after a night of restless sleep, she discovers that Brad’s body has been exhumed and mutilated.

A while later, standing on the shore, Jenn looks out on the water. She sees something floating. It’s her luggage. As she retrieves the luggage, she discovers a large hole under the water, ominously close to the island.

That night when a plane flies overhead, Jenn runs to grab the flare gun. Too late, she wastes a flare, and fails to gain the attention of the pilot. Unfortunately, she gains the attention of a huge sea creature that attacks her. Luckily, she escapes.

Over the course of several nights, she manages to employ various strategies to elude this large beast, not the least of which is to hide in the interior of a hollowed out log. When the mutilated corpse of another friend, Zack washes up on the beach, Jenn hangs the body from a tree as bait, and manages to see the monster for the first time.

On a subsequent night, Jenn makes a hammock in the trees with the canvas and rope. However, the creature senses her presence in the trees and grabs at her, managing to cause the hammock to fall. Jenn falls, grabbing for the sharpened stick she uses to fish. She stabs at the creature and manages to injure it. It bleeds black blood and she hurts it enough that it decides to escape rather than pursue her.

The following day, while standing on the shore, she sees a raft out on the water that contains her boyfriend, Lucas, and another friend, Mia. They are sunburned and dehydrated. Fortunately for them, Jenn provides them with food and sustenance. All the while, she communicates that she wants to get off the island. There was a family there that died, she explains. When they don’t take her seriously, she tells about the creature, but they don’t believe her, because we learn that Jenn has a history of being caught telling fabricated, untrue stories.

Review:

There’s more to the story, but I’m going to stop here. You and I know what happens to doubters in horror movies, so you should have a sense where this movie goes. However, there are some surprises to what follows, and I don’t want to spoil it. This is a survival, creature feature, horror movie. (When’s the last time you saw one of those?) Despite its PG-13 rating, it delivers on the scares. It’s not a hardcore horror movie, heavy in gore, and special effects. It’s PG, but this is the kind of movie you can initiate people into the genre with. Not only that, there is real significance and subtext to the story.

The appellation “Sweetheart” is used twice in this movie. Both times it is spoken by Lucas to Jenn in an exasperated tone. The term is supposed to be used as a term of endearment. Yet, here there is inequity to the relationship. Lucas throws it in her face that he provides for Jenn, that he holds financial power over her. She’s black. He’s white. I won’t belabor the point. Suffice it to say there is a sense of white privilege that enters the story as soon as Lucas and Mia show up.

I like this movie. If you follow the blog on a regular basis, you know that I (along with most hardcore horror fans) can be rather snobbish about horror, believing it is not for the feint of heart. This movie is special. It delivers on the suspense and the chills. It delivers with a protagonist that is lacking in survival skills, but quickly (compelled by circumstance) learns the skills necessary to survive her particular predicament.

The story is simple in its linear narrative, but executed with really good directing and superior cinematography which is extremely rare for a low budget studio film. I appreciate that Blumhouse Productions is doing these types of horror films (PG-13), and wisely premiered it at Sundance where it developed a buzz that carried through until it’s release. It is currently streaming on Netflix and I recommend you watch it.

For those new to our rating system: 1 Grey Geek is bad; 2 Grey Geeks is passable; 3 Grey Geeks is good; 4 Grey Geeks is excellent; and 5 Grey Geeks is nearly perfect.

I give Sweetheart (2019) 4 Grey Geeks for being Excellent in its simplicity.

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