By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.
Remote cabin. Record blizzard. Attempted murder. The new thriller Laced from writer/director Kyle Butenhoff has the sort of gripping premise that immediately sparks our interest – the kind of film that can be sold based purely on its intriguing set-up. Alfred Hitchock made a career of such premise-driven movies and often delivered the necessary twists and turns to affirm a film’s longevity beyond an interesting premise. Inspired by Hitchcock classics like Dial M for Murder and Rear Window, Laced proves itself as a successful modern Hitchcockian thriller that, despite some awkward performances and a failure to capitalize on its cozy atmosphere, has what it takes to grip your interest and not let go until the very end.
Laced follows a young woman named Molly (played by Dana Mackin) who is spending the evening of a record-breaking blizzard alone in a remote cabin with her husband Charlie (played by Kyle Butenhoff, who also wrote and directed the film). What on the surface looks like an intimate evening for the couple is actually something far more insidious as Molly plans to put an end to the toxic relationship with her boyfriend by poisoning and killing him. In typical Hitchcock fashion, however, things don’t exactly go to plan…
With such a strong premise, immersion into the film’s narrative is brisk and seamless. Moments into the movie, it’s clear who the characters are, what the remoteness of the setting entails, and what our lead character Molly is planning. Like Molly, the audience is privy to a murderous plan unbeknownst to her boyfriend Charlie. And, like Molly, the audience is taken on a perilous ride of anxiety and tension as the plan is executed and elements go awry. In turn, Laced unfolds as the type of movie one can’t help but talk to the screen during, lamenting every misstep and anxiously commenting on the story’s development. Much to the filmmakers’ credit, this sense of tension is maintained for the duration of the lean 95 minute runtime, but never overstays its welcome.
While excelling with a great script filled to the brim with twists and turns, less success is found with a generally conventional directorial approach that fails to take advantage of some of the film’s most promising elements. One of these elements is the coziness (or claustrophobia) fostered by containing the film to a single remote setting. A record blizzard is described as making it the perfect conditions for Molly to hatch such a plan, and yet the audience doesn’t get a good glimpse of what the surrounding environment of the cabin is like until the very end. Even sporadic shots of the surrounding snow sprinkled throughout would have improved the film’s atmosphere immensely and further cemented the horror of its contained setting. Laced certainly possesses a cozy quality – it’s just unfortunate that the atmosphere doesn’t live up to its rich potential (as the likes of Misery and The Lodge have done so in the past).
Similarly yielding mixed results are the film’s range of performances. Dana Mackin as the lead Molly delivers a serviceable performance, but one that never really captures the intensity fostered by the script. Mackin, whose previous work includes Girl In The Picture, Winning Time, and Quarantine the Musical, brings a unique desperation to her performance, although awkward line delivery hinders the film ever achieving the immersion and authenticity the excellent script deserves.
Kyle Butenhoff, meanwhile, plays roles in front of and behind the camera as he not only wrote and directed the film, but also stars as Molly’s boyfriend Charlie. Butenhoff portrays the bad boyfriend character with surprising nuance, not going for the overt characteristics of a poor partner and, instead, tapping into the character’s more subtle toxicities. Meanwhile, Hermoine Lynch and Zach Tinker play effective supporting roles as characters whose presence throws an already tense situation into further disarray.
Laced will grip you with its premise alone, Inspired by Hitchcock classics like Rope, Dial M for Murder and Rear Window. Although the film fails to capitalize on its remote winter setting as a means to foster an atmosphere, it excels from a sharp script with twist and turn seemingly every few moments. The kind of nail-biting, shout-at-your-screen as you watch experience of watching Laced proves immensely entertaining, even amidst some conventional directing and awkward performances. Fans of psychological thrillers, especially those in the vein of the works of Alfred Hitchcock, will thoroughly enjoy Laced.
Check out a trailer for Laced below. Laced is available on VOD/Digital January 12.