PET (2016)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 34 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Bloody Violence, some Grisly Images, Language and brief Sexuality

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Directed by: Carles Torrens

Written by: Jeremy Slater

Starring: Ksenia Solo, Dominic Monaghan, Jennette McCurdy, Nathan Parsons & Da’Vone McDonald

Featuring a premise that’s already been used in countless torture-porn flicks since the mid-2000’s, PET wisely subverts the viewer’s expectations through clever writing and unexpectedly great acting. Color me completely shocked. I stuck in this film expecting to cover it as a purposely ironic Valentine’s Day review, but I walked away shaken and kind of blown away. Don’t get me wrong. PET isn’t perfect, but it’s still a great little flick. PET is also the first horror movie, in quite some time, that made me say “holy shit” when the end credits began to roll. I’ll keep the synopsis as simple as possible, because I don’t want to spoil any of this visceral shocker’s nasty surprises.

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Seth (Dominic Monaghan) is a lonely guy looking for love. After obsessing over a crush on Facebook (as you do), Seth finally musters up the courage to ask waitress/writer Holly out on a date…only to wind up with a broken heart. After a horrible day at work further adds to Seth’s depression, he decides to take a coworker’s advice (to become more assertive) in the worst way possible. Seth’s newfound life direction leads to him discovering a secret basement in his workplace, constructing a cage, and imprisoning Holly as a would-be pet. However, Seth’s decision to literally force a relationship between himself and Holly has unintended consequences…because Holly is far more of a survivor than he originally thought. The twisted would-be couple begin to engage in a disturbing battle of wits and wills.

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There! I somehow summarized PET without giving away any of the major twists and turns (of which there are many). The screenplay behind this film makes a simple, borderline boring idea into something that’s just plain insane to behold. Besides delivering a clever plot that frequently goes above and beyond the viewer’s expectations, PET also has a sense of escalating suspense that’s further elevated by an eerie soundtrack. The film is also remarkably well shot, which is even more impressive when you take into consideration the meager budget behind this indie effort. Slick visuals only further benefit appropriately cringe-worthy set pieces as PET moves into pretty brutal territory. This film isn’t a gorefest from beginning to end. Instead, quietly building suspense and escalating conflict between two colorful characters make the grisly bits hit the viewer like a cement block to the brain.

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As impressive and unpredictable as the screenplay may be, PET wouldn’t have functioned nearly as well without two major performances. Known for playing Pippin in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, Dominic Monaghan takes on a far darker role as stalker/captor Seth. Though his American accent occasionally sounds cartoony, I found this voice only further added to Seth’s creepy factor. Ksenia Solo’s Holly seems like a clichéd horror final girl, but there’s enough background information early on to make the viewer feel sympathy towards her. Also, her whole “being locked in a cage” situation helps elicit some strong emotions for her to triumph too. There’s a moment though (you’ll know it when you see it), where Holly goes from helpless victim into one of the more memorable female characters I’ve seen in a modern horror flick. Solo’s performance is up there with Sharni Vinson in YOU’RE NEXT, Ellen Page in HARD CANDY, and Robin Wright in THE LOVED ONES. She’s that good!

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The supporting characters fade in and out, because this is mainly a twisted “love story.” The two players in that “romance” are brought to life by the two rock solid performances, while the soundtrack and visuals also put on the illusion of a far bigger budget than this film probably had. The smart screenplay delivers plenty of shocks and disturbing moments that made me wince. If I have any major complaints about PET, they mainly come in the film’s first act. This portion played out like a predictable first act of a typical torture-porn cash-in or stalker thriller, but things instantly became far more interesting once Holly was thrown into the cage. If you’re looking for an unusual horror flick or you just want to watch a really screwed-up date movie, then PET is well worth your time!

Grade: B+

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