Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Women in Horror: Pet

* spoilers *

Pet starts with Seth, an Animal Control worker, who is lonely and shy. He sees a beautiful waitress named Holly and succeeds in royally creeping her out, causing her to soundly reject him. Instead of leaving her alone, he researches her extensively online and obsessively follows her around. A series of cringeworthy and awkward situations follow as he tries to apologize to her and continues to hound her. After stealing her journal, he breaks into her house and kidnaps her, taking her to the Animal Control office and locking her in a cage. Seth is the quintessential "nice guy" who insists that women go for bad guys and complain about being friend zoned as if his female friends owe him sex. This pathetic, delusional person can't understand why woman he deems himself worthy of wouldn't want him.

At this point, I assumed I knew what was going to happen. This type of women in captivity films aren't varied much and typically end the same way. Seth first defines the boundaries for Holly, which is so ridiculous since he kidnapped her from her bed. He claims his intention is to save her, but her scantily clad and vulnerable state in a cage would state otherwise. One of his grievances against her is that she's a different person in public than in her journal. Literally everyone is a different person in public than how they are inside. He seems to be angry that she isn't as perfect as the idealized woman he imagined in his head. His whole power trip and attitude are infuriating and are in no way justified, even when Holly's true nature is finally revealed.

On the surface, Holly is a normal woman with uncommon beauty and kindness. Underneath, her thirst for killing has been growing ever since she killed her best friend Claire in a fit of jealous rage. It continued to grow as she killed homeless people she figured no one would miss. Holly feels in control and powerful when she kills people and can't stop. Claire is still with her as a sarcastic voice guiding her through and commenting on her life. If Seth really wanted to stop her and help her, he would have called the police instead of committing numerous crimes. Holly isn't helpless and uses her considerable power against him even trapped in a cage. At first, it's a struggle of dominance that goes back and forth, but Holly is determined to survive and has an advantage over Seth. He thinks he's in love with her, so he craves her attention. He also craves control which he forcibly has over her but doesn't have over his own life.

Holly proves to be a force to be reckoned with even demoralized and in captivity. She uses her emotions as weapons against him. Seth assumes he has her all figured out and assumes she's a basically good person whose motivation is guilt. She exploits that plus his love for her to the fullest. In a key scene, Seth's co-worker finds Holly. In a brilliant, unexpected move, she stalls him from freeing her and makes Seth think the only option is to kill him. Seth is forced to dispose of his friend's body by chopping it up and feeding it to the dogs in the center, a gruesome chain of events. He is forced to commit an act that brings her joy, but only leaves him with disgust and misery. This punishment is even better than escape to her.

Seth's lies about his co-worker's disappearance are falling apart around him. Holly exploits his desperation by not responding to him at all, taking away any comfort or sense of control he had from her. His life spinning out of control pushes him over the edge and he agrees to cut off his finger to show his devotion for her. She grabs the knife and threatens to kill herself if he doesn't let her loose, a genuis move since his mental fortitude is already at its breaking point. The film ends with Holly and her boyfriend Eric when she discovers proof of Eric's continued infidelity. Instead of succumbing to her murderous rage, she visits Seth, showing signs of torture and mutilation, in a cage of his own stored in a storage unit. This ending is perfect. Seth's show of power gets turned on him and he's victimized and exploited in the same manner she was.

I had pretty low expectations going into Pet and it had surprise after surprise. The ending is completely unexpected. The story calls to mind real life fears of women being kidnapped, stalked, or attacked where women feel powerless. Holly completely turns it around and shows strength in the most powerful of situations. I'm not sure if Seth was supposed to be relatable, but I found him to be a worm of a person with very little to admire or root for. I found Holly's strength in such a hopeless situation much more inspiring despite her alternative view of morality. Ksenia Solo is pitch perfect and subverts so many expectations as Holly.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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