It’s Actually a Horror Film: Our Review of ‘Catch and Release’

Posted in Movies, Virtual Cinema, What's Streaming? by - July 09, 2020
It’s Actually a Horror Film: Our Review of ‘Catch and Release’

The evidence that Dominque Cardona and Laurie Colbert’s Catch and Release is a horror film comes quickly and without warning. It’s a classic horror movie setup; cabin in the isolated woods, set design that augments the lighting in a minimalized fashion, occasional puffs of an ominous score. But even the most stylish horror trappings likely cannot conjure up what a comparable situation to the one that Keely (Laurence Leboeuf) would feel through the garish events that happen to her.

Supposedly, this shift into a more horrific landscape is a deviation of sorts from Jane Martin’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Keely and Du. I have not had the pleasure of reading the source material here. The main deviation is to take setting out of a grim basement, and shift it to the isolated confines of Northern Ontario. In both Keely and Du and Catch and Release, the titular Keely is captured by a fundamentalist anti-choice terrorist group who are ostensibly holding her captive in hopes that it will force her to bear the child. In both versions, the titular Du (Nancy Palk) is a doting grandmotherly figure who keeps watch over Keely and earnestly believes that her actions are salvaging her captives’ soul. Meanwhile, the sinister Robert (Aidan Devine) occasionally pops into the scene to spell trouble and threaten Keely.

There is no real tangible way to untangle my plot-based agitations from what are likely to be the exact same agitations found within the original source material. Thus, I’m going to flat out state that I find making your abortion kidnapping film a play for the kidnapper’s morality a gauche choice. Keely’s pregnancy is a result of her rape at the hand of a virulent ex-husband, and yet, the way the story plays out, it’s used to bring the women closer. There’re two distinct issues I can pinpoint with this choice. The first, is that it’s difficult to believe that a person who is willing to kidnap a young woman under the guise of stern religious beliefs, would have a relatively sudden change of heart when she realizes that the people she’s working with may not necessarily have altruistic intentions. Of course, they don’t! They drugged and kidnapped a pregnant woman!

The second issue here is that it partially robs Keely of agency. There are some real pertinent monologues she’s allowed, one of which feels particularly biting in the way that she effectively likens Du to be equivocal to her ex-husband (a moment I found deeply and fleetingly cathartic). But it routinely feels less like an exertion of Keely’s rapidly shrinking will, and closer to a conscience whispering in Du’s ear. Maybe in the context of the narrative this is the point. That the only way to get through to the staunchly anti-choice is to appeal to a sense of morality.

Which makes me want to scream. This morality should be inherent. Women should not need to demonstrate their humanity in order to be afforded the right to choose what happens to their body. Full stop.

The decision flip this into a horror, instead of a prestige picture is the only saving grace of Catch and Release. It at least suggests to me that the film is partially trying to offer some semblance of Keely’s perspective, even if so much of the film is foisted upon Du’s eventual reconciliation. Cardona and Colbert do wonders with the colour schematics here, duly crafting a film filled with dull colours and drab lighting. There’s at least one shot of co-captor Robert that’s a textbook definition of some harsh top lighting.

But it’s impossible to shake the feeling that no matter how well-crafted some the ambient surroundings are, they’re trapped inside a film far less interesting than it could be. This isn’t a great exploration of religious fundamentalism, nor is it even a great play at the need for women to stand together. It’s actually a horror film, and one that needs a stronger sense of catharsis.

Hits virtual cinema on July 10th across the country and is on iTunes as of July 14th.

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Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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