Alone in the countryside with a friend and her boyfriend when deadly secrets start to reveal themselves; doesn’t sound like a great lockdown does it? Help is the debut feature film from award-winning director Blake Ridder, known for his short The English Teacher. It’s a psychological thriller that follows Grace, played by Emily Redpath, who after breaking up with her boyfriend visits her friend Liv (Sarah Alexandra Marks) and Liv’s boyfriend Edward (Louis James) at their home in the rural countryside. As the weekend goes on, things start to take a darker turn as secrets come out and they begin to see each other in a new light. Whilst it isn’t specifically set during lockdown, Help was shot in 12 days with a crew of just 20 people over lockdown in 2020.
The film takes place almost entirely inside Edward’s large countryside home and right from the start the film creates a sense of unease within the viewer. The house and its surroundings have a certain eeriness to them, whether that’s because of the creepy neighbour David, played by writer/director Ridder, issuing Grace strange warnings and just staring into the house or the peculiar reactions from Liv and Edward when Grace arrives, it all just doesn’t seem right and the film keeps leading you along, curious to know where it’s heading. The film does a very good job in the first act of setting everything up and creating that sense of unease within the viewer which is really crucial for a psychological thriller film like this.
After a shortwhile, however, Help began to feel a little sluggish once we’ve started to get to know these characters and once the groundwork for what’s to come in the final act has been set. I don’t want to give away the ending or spoil anything, but it is really only in the film’s final 25 minutes or so that it starts to pick up. It is important that the characters are all set up well so that when the finale comes around and everyone’s dark secrets are revealed it has that impactful punch that it requires, it just felt that there were a couple of moments in the film’s second act where things could have moved along a little bit quicker to keep the pace up and to keep it all moving.
Some of the dialogue does come across as quite scripted at times which can take you out of it a bit but the film just about gets by as Emily Redpath delivers a strong central performance and so it is worth sticking with it. However, once the film’s finale comes along it really grips you and throws everything it has at you to create a really dark and vicious ending.
Help is a good, worthy psychological thriller that keeps you on edge throughout with an interesting premise that wasn’t hindered in the slightest but rather heightened, by filming during the pandemic. It makes really good use of a small cast and a single location to amplify the sense of claustrophobia and discomfort that Grace feels throughout the film.
Dir: Blake Ridder
Scr: Blake Ridder
Cast: Emily Redpath, Sarah Alexandra Marks, Louis James
Prd: Louis James, Blake Ridder
Music: Ruth Chan
DOP: Samuel Pearce
Runtime: 95 mins
Help is set to release in summer 2021.