Movie Reviews

SXSW 2016 Movie Review: ‘Pet’

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When Seth (Dominic Monaghan) recognizes former classmate Holly (Ksenia Solo) on a city bus, he tries to strike up a conversation. She doesn’t remember him, and the tone of their brief exchange suggests that she’s not interested in reminiscing about high school – but as a socially awkward loner with very few friends, Seth isn’t terribly adept at picking up these sorts of signals.

Seth tries to solicit advice from Nate (Da’Vone McDonals), a coworker at the animal shelter, but Nate’s desire to converse with Seth about anything on a personal level is about as strong as Holly’s willingness to entertain his romantic advances. So instead, he opts for a different approach: breaking into Holly’s apartment, injecting her with a paralyzing agent and locking her in a cage in the shelter’s basement.

The first half of Pet feels like something we’ve seen before – creepy guy kidnaps pretty girl – and at this point you might think you have the movie figured out. Believe me when I say that no matter what you think, you’re absolutely wrong, because there’s a moment in the second act where Pet takes a wild left turn, causing the audience to completely reevaluate everything they’ve experienced up to that point.

From there, Pet becomes a fascinating psychological thriller, with Seth and Holly engaging in a brilliant mental chess game where the balance of power is constantly fluctuating. There are moments where each character elicits sympathy, and others where each seems beyond redemption. The struggle to decide how you feel about these individuals is a testament to just how great Monaghan and Solo are in these roles.

Director Carles Torrens, working on a shoestring budget and a grueling production schedule, has served up an engrossing – albeit twisted – love story of sorts. It’s hard to say more about Pet without delving into its secrets, but rest assured that peeling back its layers will leave you consistently surprised – and conflicted – up until the final scene.

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