Lucky Is a Surreal Nightmare About Facing Your Worst Fears

May (Brea Grant) faces yet another pool of blood in her home.
May (Brea Grant) faces yet another pool of blood in her home.
Image: Shudder

There are cracks already forming in the carefully curated life of self-help author May (Brea Grant) even before she must confront a sudden and apparently otherworldly intrusion into her life. But as Lucky’s protagonist comes to find out, even facing her problems head-on doesn’t guarantee they’ll be solved.

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Lucky, directed by Natasha Kermani (Imitation Girl) and written by lead actor Grant (Heroes, Beyond the Gates), feels at first like a supernatural thriller in the vein of It Follows; like the unstoppable terror in that film, the threat that targets May is sudden, mysterious, and relentless. But May’s predicament is a bit different: every night, the same man wearing an eerie plastic mask shows up at her house and tries to kill her. Fortunately, he’s relatively easy to fight off, and once he’s dead his body vanishes, leaving behind only broken windows, smashed household objects, and the occasional blood splatter. But night after night, he’s there, ready to get his murder party started.

If you’re wondering “Wait, what?”—well, that’s exactly how May reacts when her husband, Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh), succinctly sums up the situation at the start of the movie. It’s never explained why May doesn’t initially remember the repetitive peril she’s in; nor do we initially understand why Ted is so matter-of-fact and even dismissive when he breaks the news to her. “We have to fight for our lives now,” he says, in the same tone of voice that someone might declare they need to take the garbage out. After the attack, the police are summoned (Ted says he’s never seen the man before, even though he’s just told May that they see the same man every night), and in the aftermath, Ted and May have a big fight. He refuses to acknowledge that the man’s existence is cause for any undue alarm or hysteria. “This is just how things are!” Ted insists, before storming out and leaving May alone.

As it happens, May is an expert at facing things alone. Literally. Her latest self-help book is titled Go It Alone, and the philosophy she peddles incorporates phrases like “remain calm,” “focus on the patterns you can change,” and “start creating your own narrative.” One of her most popular blog posts is titled “Problem Solving For Staying Alive.” But Go It Alone isn’t selling as well as her agent had hoped—and after the masked man starts appearing, she’s rattled enough to fumble for answers when addressing her audience (all women) at her latest book signing.

Illustration for article titled Lucky Is a Surreal Nightmare About Facing Your Worst Fears
Image: Shudder

“I feel like I don’t know how to play the game anymore,” May admits as she nears her lowest point. Everything around her has ceased to make any sense whatsoever. The police show up every time she calls them but make only empty gestures when it comes to locating her perpetual attacker; Ted remains stubbornly MIA; and her (male) agent has informed her that her new book needs to add some trendy “buzzwords” to cash in on the women’s market more efficiently.

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Then there’s her would-be killer, a silent cypher who preys on her every insecurity and frustration, not to mention deepest fears. Is he a manifestation of her own guilt? The personification of toxic male backlash? A boogeyman whose real purpose is to violently taunt her, rather than actually kill her? An indication that May has actually crossed over into some other dimension where a man can just attack a woman over and over without consequence?

Without giving away too much, that last question comes into play as Lucky begins to widen its focus away from just May, and its story becomes about more than just one woman in a constant life-or-death struggle. The movie’s title is incredibly well-chosen since “lucky” is a word that echoes throughout its dialogue—spoken by different people, but always used in the same context: to remind May how fortunate she is. “You’re so lucky that they want to do another book with you,” her agent says. “You’re lucky you woke up before the killer got to you,” the cops say. “You’re lucky you didn’t get hurt,” everyone says. At a certain point, she can’t take it anymore. There’s a guy trying to kill her, so she has to frantically kill him first every 24 hours. How is she lucky at all? “I’m not lucky,” she tells her agent, wanting to make sure the reason behind her successful career is correctly attributed, though it applies to her survival strategy too. “I just work really, really hard.”

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At just 80 minutes, Lucky is a compact mystery that doesn’t feel the need to over-explain itself, and its more enigmatic narrative points are helped along by two important factors: Grant’s powerful yet understated performance, which also incorporates some intense physical combat, and Kermani’s sure-handed direction, which steadily builds suspense and tension even as things in May’s world—a place that feels uncomfortably like our world, albeit with the dread turned way, way up—spiral into total weirdness.

Lucky premieres on Shudder March 4.

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io9 News Editor, here since 2016. Previously SF Bay Guardian newspaper (RIP), SFSU (MA, Cinema Studies), member of the SF Bay Area Film Critics Circle, big fan of horror, metal, and verrry small dogs.

DISCUSSION

brainlock-2
Brainlock can NOT FKG reply on kinja

Weird. I had the random thought, “I still ship Maphne” go thru my head this morning.

Closest I’ve read/seen any reference to Heroes was somebody posting a pic from “Along Came Polly” about amateurs (PSH reference in Lebowski group), and I responded with a Hiro “Yatta!” gif. That was two days ago. Other than spamming Grunny as the new JJ Superman news, and occasional Grunny fb post, I haven’t thought about the show in months. Let alone my favorite show ship.