“Being alone is just kind of shitty,” says Holly’s (Ksenia Solo) BFF Claire (Jennette McCurdy); a casual remark that pretty succinctly etches out the essence of helmer Carles Torrens’ latest thriller, PET. And whilst it never feels like scribe Jeremy Slater is intentionally trying to rub our noses in any specific social commentary per se, he does examine the morals of people and our society and what literally can happen to a social outcast driven and bound to a world of solitude.
PET follows Dominic Monaghan as Seth, a solitary and misunderstood loner who thinks things might just be about to take a turn for the better when he bumps into old school friend Holly on the bus home from work. Erringly assuming the attraction is mutual, Seth’s fascination with her swiftly turns into an unhealthy obsession with all of his attempts to gain her attention screaming one thing: STALKER. Rebuffed woo after rebuffed woo, Seth comes up with a slightly more inventive approach to getting to spend some “quality” time with Holly and that’s when she wakes up locked in a cage down in the basement of the animal shelter where Seth works.
For the first half an hour or so, Jeremy Slater’s take on familiar kidnap tropes serves as the perfect red herring and will have you expecting things to tread on OTIS’ or CAPTIVITY’s cliché toes. That’s just not the case, and all the better for it, as PET’s premise meanders more than a drunk heading home after a night on the town. But, just as no matter how blind drunk someone might get, they always miraculously manage to find their way home, PET never loses track of where it wants to take us and the twists never, ever feel contrived.
For a film that focuses almost entirely on the ins and outs of its two lead players, proficient acting chops are of the essence and both Monaghan and Solo prevail. The role of Seth demands all kinds of sinister whilst he’s also kind of a softy at heart, especially when Holly’s involved, and Monaghan emotes both of these traits perfectly. And then, when it comes to Solo, I wasn’t actually familiar with her prior to PET but she puts in the best performance in a genre film this year and, not to take any points away from Monaghan, her command of such a nuanced character is the movie’s piece de resistance. In a recent interview, even Monahan attests to how she’s the most talented actress he’s had the opportunity to work with so far in his career – or in this case, the wildest thing he’s had to tame. And if it hadn’t been for the fact the actors were able to navigate their characters complexities so smoothly, then I don’t think the serpentine script and ever-changing relationship between Seth and Holly would have been anywhere as potent as they ultimately are.
Performances aside, PET also features some brutally realistic, wince-inducing makeup effects from a team headed up by Katie Middleton (STARRY EYES, THE BAY), and on one or two occasions they come out of nowhere, making them all the more effective.
If there’s a but when it comes to PET, it’s the fact that the film ends a little like it starts off: a tad on the cliché side. It’s not a bad ending by any means, but, given how solidly plotted the build up was, I couldn’t help feeling slightly short-changed. But it’s a minor failing when you consider the film as a whole and its stainless performances.
This reviewer heartily recommends you catch this at a festival near you if you can, or early next year when it gets a full release. And even if you have had a chance to catch it, I strongly suggest a second viewing as it was just as entertaining trying to spot various early clues as to where the story was heading that flew right over my head the first time round.
Certainly one of the films to beat on the festival circuit this year. Four and a half Good Guys want to take this PET home.