Lucky: Feminist Horror Puts Subversive Spin On the Slasher Formula

With big studios shelving their major releases, horror-streaming platform Shudder has upped its commitment to producing original content. In 2020, Shudder released over 20 feature movies that included Host, Random Acts of Violence, and The Beach House. At present, it’s only March and Shudder already has five original movies available for streaming. While Shook was an uneven social media horror movie, Shudder’s latest release, Lucky, promises a feminist horror movie with a bit more punch. And while it’s ‘time loop’ story of killer stalking a young woman nightly sounds a bit like Happy Death Day, this Shudder original appears to take its own path.

Synopsis

May is a successful self-help author with a loving boyfriend and beautiful home. But life takes an unexpected twist one evening when a masked man breaks into the house and tries to kill May. Things get stranger when her boyfriend casually remarks that their intruder comes every night. And just like that, May’s attacker appears night after night. Each night May kills her attacker only to find his body missing the next morning. To make matters worse, everyone seems dismissive of her story. As each night passes, May grows more desperate to regain control of her life.

Lucky is Slasher Movie By Way of Microaggressions

As zombie movies have receded in popularity, there’s been a subtle slasher resurgence. However, the resurgence hasn’t been so much in the quantity, Instead, what we’ve seen are a handful of horror directors use – and subvert – the subgenre to tell very different stories. Not too long ago, the zombie movie was the vehicle for progressive horror stories. But Freaky, It Follows, and the Wrong Turn remake have all, to varying degrees of success, used the 80s formula for 21st century storytelling. Now director Natasha Kermani and writer/star Brea Grant have co-opted the slasher to tell a very metaphorical feminist story.

Lucky’s re-appearing killer is every man that has ‘mansplained’, dismissed a woman’s accomplishments, or downplayed her feelings.

Consider Lucky to be a slasher movie by way of microaggressions. And it’s all in the title. When May’s editor tells her ‘she’s lucky’ to have such great book sales, you should have an idea of what the movie is really about. Specifically, Lucky’s re-appearing killer is every man that has ‘mansplained’, dismissed a woman’s accomplishments, or downplayed her feelings. In addition, he is the ‘average man’ taking redit for his much more talented female co-worker’s success. Arguably, many women will be able to relate to Lucky’s metaphor. And if it seems a little heavy-handed, a third-act twist in an underground parking garage adds layers to the subtext. Besides, Kermani and Grant’s ending offers ambiguity that will have you puzzling or infuriated.

Compelling Subtext Isn’t Always Complemented By Good Horror

On the one hand, Lucky boasts some clever storytelling. Yet it doesn’t always work as a horror movie. Even a horror-comedy. Keep in mind that other horror movies with more on their mind – Get Out or … – still managed to be scary stuff. Initially, Lucky boasts some unsettling moments. When May’s partner is nonchalant about a masked killer appearing nightly, it gets under your skin. Nevertheless, Kermani doesn’t handle the horror end of her story as well as the symbolism. In fact, Lucky’s darker humour doesn’t consistently hit the mark either. Though there’s a few good slasher moments, Lucky lacks some of the more visceral shocks slasher fans expect.

Lucky boasts some clever storytelling. Yet it doesn’t always work as a horror movie.

Despite the absence of scares, Lucky benefits from Brea Grant’s strong performance. In what’s more of an extended Black Mirror episode, Grant capably carries the metaphorical story. While a good supporting cast surrounds her, Grant does the heavy-lifting. She’s onscreen in almost every scene and she completely sells the movie’s novel twist. Horror fans may recognize Grant from several other indie horror flicks including All the Creatures Were Stirring, Beyond the Gates, and After Midnight. However, Grant’s work here may propel her into more deserved opportunities.

Lucky Tells a Powerful Allegorical Tale That Might Not Be For Everyone

In what’s a genuinely impressive subversion of the slasher subgenre, Kermani and Grant weave a clever feminist critique into a familiar ‘stalk-and-slash’ violence. Yes, some viewers may not get the movie’s metaphorical approach. Others may not appreciate or enjoy the subtext. Moreover, Lucky’s deliberately ambiguous ending may frustrate some viewers. And Lucky is less effective as a slasher movie. That is, the subtext takes precedence here. But there’s no denying how well Kermani and Grant tell a story that will undoubtedly impact female horror fans. If nothing else,

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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