Written by: Matt Patti | June 15th, 2020
The Luring (Christopher Wells, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.
Writer/director Christopher Wells premiered his horror thriller The Luring at Kansas City’s Panic Fest in early 2019 to much acclaim. Now, it is coming to digital and DVD more than a year later. It is reminiscent of a few classic horror films but also adds its own original flair and even includes some heavy drama elements, specifically when it comes to the main romantic relationship in the film. It is this mix that keeps the film interesting throughout, even at times when there is little taking place in terms of actual horror.
The film follows Garrett (Rick Irwin), a troubled man, seemingly in his mid-20s, with a mysterious past that includes a disturbing event from his childhood that he cannot remember. During Garrett’s 10th birthday, he and his family went to a vacation home in Vermont to celebrate. While there, the aforementioned traumatic occurrence took place. In hopes of recovering this lost memory, Garrett and his girlfriend Claire (Michaela Sprague) decide to take a vacation up to Vermont and stay in that exact same vacation home. While there, strange events begin to occur, and demons of Garrett’s past begin to surface. He slowly, but surely, begins to remember what took place, but as his mental state deteriorates, he soon realizes these memories are better forgotten.
The Luring’s premise helps to intrigue the audience off the bat, leaving us constantly guessing what exactly happened that Garrett cannot remember. However, the supplemental elements of the film often take center stage and help keep the movie afloat when it’s not focusing on Garrett’s lost memory. The prime example is Garrett and Claire’s relationship, which is a compelling plot point throughout the film. This relationship isn’t like a typical horror-film relationship where both partners are equally frightened and work together to help each other, nor is it overly toxic from the start. Garrett and Claire’s relationship is very complicated, with Claire being much more invested in the relationship and Garrett unsure of what he wants. Claire also seems overly concerned about what’s happening around them, whereas Garrett seems indifferent and lost, at times. Seeing Claire’s overly caring and joyful demeanor clash with Garrett’s indifferent, irritable, and often ungrateful personality is sad and heartbreaking, especially with all the other events going on. Garrett and Claire are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, personality-wise, and Irwin and Sprague’s respective performances are great at capturing both extremes. The two play off each other well and create a believable, troubled relationship that is unfortunately like many real-world relationships.
Garrett and Claire’s relationship dominates the first act and much of the second act, with most of the horror elements placed in the third act, yet throughout the whole film there’s an underlying uncomfortable feeling of dread around the disturbing mystery of Garrett’s childhood. Flashbacks of Garrett’s childhood are spread throughout and give the viewer one small puzzle piece at a time, but when put together in the third act reveal a shocking and uncanny discovery. The performances from the child actors in these flashbacks are surprisingly impressive, especially Henry Gagliardi as young Garrett, although he doesn’t get much screen time. The third act reveal is stunning and quite dark, even for me as a seasoned horror fan, for which I give this film many points.
Unfortunately, some may dislike the way that this film borrows from other horror films. For example, a red balloon is a common visual seen in many different scenes throughout the film, which can obviously be traced to the It films (based on Stephen King’s popular novel). I do wonder why the filmmakers couldn’t use a different item in place of a red balloon, or at least change the balloon’s color. I’d even debate that they might have done it for publicity reasons, given how immensely popular the It films are, to capture people’s attention. Whatever the reason, it was a bit unnecessary, but it’s not a huge issue. Garrett’s descent into madness is very reminiscent of Jack Torrance’s in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Garrett even reflecting similar mannerisms at times. However, I personally like Garrett’s gradual decline from a boyfriend who is caring but aloof, to aggravated and critical, to angry and frightening more than Jack Torrance’s similar decline. One of my few issues with The Shining is that Jack starts the film already a cold, easily angered, bad husband, so it’s not so shocking when we see more of the same throughout the film. Garrett has a much more drastic change over the run time of The Luring.
Overall, The Luring is a tense horror thriller with a great central mystery. It borders on being a drama at some moments, and at others offers some truly chilling horror elements. It may borrow some key elements from bigger horror films, but it has enough fresh material to balance itself out. Garrett and Claire provide an engaging duo as the two main characters, and Garrett’s mystery turns out to be more horrific than many people will imagine. In the end, The Luring should lure in generic moviegoers and horror fans, alike, with its riveting plot elements.