LUCKY (2020)

Director: Natasha Kermani
Writer: Brea Grant
Stars: Brea Grant, Hunter C. Smith, Kausar Mohammed, Dhruv Uday Singh, Yasmine Al-Bustami

“ I am not lucky. I just work really really hard.”

The Brea Grant Appreciation Society will come to order

People who are obsessed with horror movies are also obsessed with the people that make them. There are very few horror fans who are not familiar with John Carpenter and George Romero. After watching the excellent 12 Hour Shift, I added the name Brea Grant to my list. In addition to writing and directing 12 Hour Shift, Ms. Grant is a thought-provoking writer and innovative director. She is also an exceptional actress, having appeared in several notable films and TV series. The year 2021 is starting to become a big year for her as well. March 2021 will feature two new projects that she has been intimately involved with; she stars in Jill Gevargizian’s The Stylist, and she writes and stars in director Natasha Kermani’s Lucky (2020).

I have been looking forward to watching Lucky since last year’s Fantasia Fest. I was grateful to be given a chance to see it before its March release and to write this review. Lucky is an audacious and unsettling film that delivers plenty of what I love most about the horror genre. It is a dark and horrifying reflection of our own world, and many viewers will find it challenging. 

“I may be better at titles than you.”

Lucky is the story of May (Brea Grant), a best-selling self-help author. Fiercely independent, she finds herself under pressure from her agent and publisher to make her writing more marketable. Her life begins coming apart when a stalker (Hunter C. Smith) breaks into her house nightly. As the attacks increase in frequency and violence, she becomes less certain that the police and her husband have her best interests at heart.  

Eventually, May comes to terms with understanding that the world will be a chaotic and dangerous place for her because she is a woman.  She witnesses countless women struggling with the same masked assailant in a dark parking garage at the film’s terrifying climax. She comes to grips that there is no rational explanation for what is happening, and there is no end in sight for her and all women. Fleeing the garage, she returns home to fight her nemesis once again, this time unmasking him at last. 

 “Every goddamned day.”

Early in the film, May’s fragile husband, Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh), abandons her to face her ordeal alone. His rationalization is that she was insensitive to his feelings during a discussion about the intruder, and she challenged his lackadaisical reaction. He leaves, saying, “I can’t be with you when you’re like this!” His insecurity overrides May’s safety and calls to mind Margret Atwood’s observation, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

Lucky portrays a grim reality for women like May. She realizes that all achievements in her life have been reduced to a struggle for safety, agency, and validation. In her interactions with police, social workers, EMTs, her agent, and even her husband, she constantly struggles to be understood. It is obvious from their attitude and the incorrect assumptions of their replies that none of them take her situation seriously. They continuously rewrite her narrative to fit their perceptions. As she tells her assistant Edie (Yasmine Al-Bustami), her assistant women must face these obstacles ‘Every goddamned day.”

Hunter C. Smith as The Man-Photo Credit: Shudder

With scenes like those above, coupled with its strong feminist message, Lucky will probably be a divisive film and meet with strong opposition from some members of the horror community. Grant and Kermani created a very challenging and confrontational film that many audience members will relate to. Director Kermani calls it a “genre story with real-life horrors just below the surface” and a “nightmarish parallel to the one (world) we live in”

“They’re stubborn, and we’re crazy.”

But not everyone wants to hear stories like this, and some even question their place in horror. In November of  2019, Joe Bob Briggs tweeted that politics and horror movies do not belong together. Joe Bob’s tweet responded to the announcement that Rachel Wolf and Sophia Tackal’s Black Christmas remake would be a female-created, female-centric, and feminist-themed slasher. His separating politics from horror exemplifies the paradox of men willing to discuss a  problem but are uncomfortable with being named as part of the problem. To bolster this attitude, last year, a critic from a well-respected magazine unapologetically attempted to dismiss Emerald Fennell’s A Promising Young Woman, another female-created film, by unfavorably comparing star Carey Mulligan’s appearance with producer Margot Robbie’s. The implication was Promising Young Woman might have been a more watchable movie if the latter had been in front of the camera instead of behind it, based on an extremely superficial comparison point. 

Both A Promising Young Woman and Black Christmas showcase a different kind of female protagonist. These women prevail by fighting with their weapons. Born out of necessity, they must be smarter, more resourceful, and more ruthless because they lack the societal power (and physical strength) of the men who attempt to rape and murder them. Lucky’s May is similar to the other films’ heroines, but her opponent isn’t confined to a single person or organization. May’s foe is largely undefined yet omnipresent. 

This Could Be Dangerous For Someone

 Movies that are female-led, female-centric, and feminist-themed such as Lucky, A Promising Young Woman, and 2019’s Black Christmas, bring to the forefront a different subgenre of horror. These stories are about the horror of living as an oppressed person in a society that works hard to convince the victims their oppression is in their head. Natasha Kermani has said Lucky functions as a mirror of our present world. But it’s not a view of the world that many are comfortable with and that alone cements its importance in the genre.

The best horror movies are the ones that disrupt, disorient and create chaos among the audience. Such films force the viewer to examine something familiar from a new perspective. This oftentimes illuminates undiscovered faults, blemishes or rotten areas. Lucky did not disappoint. Grant and Kermani strove hard to make a film that would upend viewer’s expectations in order to raise their conscience to a new plateau and force them to look at the familiar from an unfamiliar angle. At least unfamiliar for some of the audience.

Lucky will be available after March 4th on Shudder.