Captive (2020) horror film review

Captive (2020), directed by Savvas Christou | FEATURE FILM REVIEW

There was something suitably unsettling about Savvas Christou’s feature film Captive (2020). Jam-packed with intensity, the thriller has a gripping and authentic narrative filled with enigma from the very beginning.

Gradually building suspense and revealing dark twists, Captive (2020) doesn’t leave you feeling short-changed on conflict through this character-driven movie…

Running from trauma

Christous’ horror centres around Lily (Tori Kostic), a provocative and bolshy teenage girl on the run with her boyfriend Neil (Jairus Carey), in the hope of leaving her abusive homelife behind.

The plot brushes over the ‘never talk to strangers’ lecture in the main, as Lily finds herself stranded in the middle of the forest and confiding in an enigmatic resident for help and rescue which consequently backfires when he traps her in his basement.

Living through the torment of imprisonment, Lily’s attention is brought to the delusional side of her abductor who propels the sinister plot with his erratic outbursts and unstable behaviour. Keeping the audience on edge, the film then takes a diversion when the mentally ill man, Evan, (William Kircher) mistakes the teenager for his daughter, Katherine (Meghan Hanako).

Evan seems to nurture poor Lily through tough love built on discipline, scheduled training and endless meal regimes in the hope of her becoming a champion athlete – another hurdle in what already seems an apparent nightmare.

Embodying Evan’s daughter as her only survival method, Lily sinks into Katherine’s shoes (literally) and strict lifestyle as a logical means of gaining her kidnapper’s trust in the hope that she can free herself.

William Kircher and Tori Kostic in Captive (2020)
William Kircher and Tori Kostic in Captive (2020)

No exit. No way out. Just a psycho and his home.

The compelling survival story absorbs the audience through the protagonist’s point of view as she constantly psychoanalyses and tries to plot a means of escape, upon discovering every nook and cranny bolted or padlocked.

The iconic ‘tunnelling out with a spoon’ option in The Shawshank Redemption (1994) wouldn’t be a solution either.

The main character’s spectrum of highs and lows is underpinned by the melancholic music score, encapsulating Lily’s constant feelings of hope and despair.

Captive (2020) exhibits some thought-provoking ideas, harnessing themes of grief, love, loss and acceptance as the main character gradually chooses to fit the mould of Evan’s daughter.

Using Katherine’s persona to her advantage, Lily embarks on a long game, locating an exit to her freedom and sanity. Thematically, ideas about family and perseverance are present through the grit and courage Lily puts upon herself in trying to outwit Evan, which is similar in tone to 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016).

Captive’s structure cuts straight to the chase as a multitude of underlying truths and backstories are drip fed through flashbacks. The film relishes in gradually building suspense and unravelling dark twists which deliver a shock factor and manipulate our feelings about the characters.

Tori Kostic in Savvas Christou's Captive (2020)
Tori Kostic in Savvas Christou’s Captive (2020)

A father and daughter bond like no other

The writer’s voice is magnified in the writing, suggesting that “family is what you make of it” alongside examining how people cope with loss in their lives. Furthermore, there are no moments where the story seems too fantastical.

The dialogue and action connect us with the characters whom we stay in sync with throughout whilst the conflict involved radiates through Christou’s carefully crafted work.

Movies with limited location choices and a small cast can struggle to engage their audiences, often resulting in a film looking bleak in areas. Captive (2020) sets a high standard with multi-layered characters that drive the story with tragic inner conflicts and characteristics.

In this character-driven thriller, the cast deliver believable and versatile performances that have clearly been fleshed out in great detail. Tori Kostic adds a down-to-earth and vulnerable quality to her character which leads us to deeply sympathise with her seemingly never-ending struggle.

In terms of William Kircher’s character, it’s enthralling to see the actor deliver a combination of mania, unpredictability and franticness playing Evan, which is somewhat comparable to Robert De Niro’s character David in Hide and Seek (2005).

From awkward dinner table scenes to their typical Father and Daughter bond which is outright complicated and unwieldy, Lily and Evans’ fiery relationship is built on dread, reconciliation and heart wrench.

The story without a doubt exceeded my expectations with dramatic turns as the protagonist is plunged into a chaotic fight for survival. While the film came to a satisfying close, it still left me with some unanswered questions that could be explored in a sequel.

IMDb score: 5.3 | Film Forums: 8