It’s easy to see why the horror genre must be particularly alluring to fresh-faced filmmakers brainstorming their first feature. Horror can certainly be clever when it decides to comment on Today’s Issues, but it’s rarely subtle. These movies already revel in the supernatural, the fantastica and the downright homicidal; so why should their messaging need any restraint? Just look to such legendary examples as John Carpenter’s They Live or Jordan Peele’s Get Out if you need a reminder that films can be silly and socially conscious.
Lucky, from director Natasha Kermani and writer Brea Grant, deserves credit for not beating around the bush with a message people (mostly dudes) still can’t seem to learn, much to America’s expense — that being BELIEVE WOMEN, YOU SELFISH MORONS. Just look at May (wonderfully played by Grant), who’s left to fend for herself when a masked maniac (Hunter C. Smith) assaults her every single night and then has to spend each following day trying to convince dumb men (police officers, an emotionally detached husband) to lend her some much-needed assistance. (Seriously, every man in May’s orbit is completely useless at best and actively violent at worst.) Oh, and also: Even on some nights when May does manage to kill this psycho, he nonetheless returns inexplicably unharmed the next day.
That premise is, frankly, pretty darn brilliant. The morbid absurdity adds an effective streak of humor amid all the brutality while leaving zero room for viewers to misinterpret the movie’s feminist call to arms.
Tragically, a brilliant premise is all Lucky really has to offer. Reading any description of its plot will likely deliver a sense of satisfaction comparable to watching the movie itself. The first time May encounters her mute attacker (donned in a cheap transparent mask), their skirmish is a brutal and harrowing thing to witness, and the eerie attempt by her husband (Dhruv Uday Singh) to rationalize the incident is even harder to stomach. May’s complete lack of support — when her life is genuinely at stake — gives Lucky’s opening stretch an intriguing satirical streak, but that joke quickly wears out its welcome once the movie repeats it for the next 60 minutes.
Kermani stages all the home-invasion sequences with enough skill to leave one keeping an eye out for her eventual follow-up. Watching a woman repeatedly get the shit kicked out of her and subsequently gaslit by everyone around her may make a cathartic production experience for the women involved, but it’s not necessarily entertaining. That cycle makes Lucky a rather frustrating experience and not because of its disturbing subject matter, either: There’s so much on the screen that screams of potential greatness. If only Grant’s screenplay had a story to follow its setup, Lucky could have been a horror flick as thought-provoking as its ideas.