The night is an inky blue, quiet, peaceful until you spy the masked man outside your window. Imagine, you rush to your partner, shake their shoulder in warning, whisper the horrid news. And with a groggy nonchalance, they yawn, “That’s the man that comes every night to kill us.” The world you thought you understood becomes slippery in nightmare logic. What should be shocking is regarded as mundane by those around you. The horror you feel in your bones is yours and yours alone. This is the center of Lucky, a slasher/satire about gaslighting, rape culture, and one survivor reclaiming her narrative.
Natasha Kermani directs Lucky, which follows May (Brea Grant), a self-help author with a stalker who won’t quit. Each night this mysterious man in loafers, a blazer, and a translucent mask shows up, breaks in, and tries to kill her. Each night, she fights him off in brutal battles thatx should prove deadly. But every time she goes to call the cops, his should-be corpse vanishes in the blink of an eye, leaving behind a pool of blood and a flood of questions.
The cops can’t save her. Their apathetic promises of protection won’t keep him away. Their probing questions suggest she’s invited his violent attention. Every night she is attacked, every day she’s forced to defend herself against a small army of social workers, medics, and officers whose questions become so absurd that they fall into a clamoring song. Meanwhile, May’s anger is dismissed or written off as hysterics, as if rage at this repeated invasion isn’t a rational response.
Lucky becomes a visceral tour through the horror of violation and gaslighting. The script is littered with language that survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or stalking might recognize all too well. It’s not just in the justice system that appears helpless in the face of one deranged and determined man. Such troubling language is also in May’s stressed rationalizing, which spurs her to wonder if this is happening because she deserves this. Did she do something to have this coming?
This is the victim-blaming trap that rape culture sets for survivors. It’s not enough they suffer in the moment or endure the trauma that follows, but also they must question if they were wrong to feel wronged. May’s quest into this dark curiosity pushes her to a place of dangerous isolation, where she worries it’s wrong to ask others for help. Then, a plot twist reveals unexpected horrors that make her question even the slippery certainty of her own guilt.
This provocative exploration is charted by Grant, who not only stars but also wrote Lucky’s screenplay, driven by her own experience of being stalked. The film’s title comes from the thoughtless remark of someone who told her she was “lucky” that she hadn’t been raped. This refrain is echoed in Lucky, each time in a context that makes May understandably bristle. On the third instance, she lashes back, decrying this twisted concept of good fortune and standing her ground for what she truly deserves.
Grant builds great bones for a satirical slasher that pushes the structure of an unstoppable killer and a determined Final Girl into the insanity that is rape culture. Kermani reflects the mental torment caused by this patriarchal construct by creating a tone that slips into the surreal without warning. Supporting character’s delivery slides from natural to theatrical, with some literally bursting into inappropriate songs. The settings shift without warning, with men appearing and disappearing as if walking through the curtains of a bad dream. After the initial shock, May is never certain when things will trip into mayhem, and neither are we. Then comes a final act that reveals not just a twist, but also a gut punch that’s delivered to provoke conversation.
Like Promising Young Woman, Lucky won’t offer a Hollywood happy ending. Such a thing would be a slap in the face to the heroine, undermining the impact of the horrors she’s endured. Instead, Lucky plucks at the raw nerve of these issues to allow us a space to scream with May at the indignity, maliciousness, and chaos of it all. Grant infuses her own pain, experience, and resilience into a character who is familiar in her flaws and frustrations. May is no chic and invincible avenger with answers and a plan. She’s just a common woman, trying her damndest to live her life while surviving the endless threat of any given man.
Grant’s aching heart spills out a story of blood and boldness, dread and defiance. With her substance and Kermani’s style, Lucky becomes a battle cry, howled into the darkness, charging toward the light of another day.
Lucky comes to Shudder on March 4.
Header Image Source: Shudder