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“Laced” Hooks You Despite Issues

Written by: Matt Patti | January 11th, 2024

Laced (Kyle Butenhoff, 2023) 3 out of 5 stars*

Have you ever had the perfect plan? If so, has that plan ever fallen apart completely? Have even the loose ends you thought you tied up come back to haunt you? Or, worse, has an unexplained, external factor caused your ploy to go up in flames entirely?

If you can relate to any of these instances, the emotions you felt are likely very similar to what the characters experience in director Kyle Butenhoff’s single-location thriller Laced, a film in which he also stars. In the film, a woman attempts to poison her husband. However, her plan and her sanity unravel as unforeseen circumstances rear their ugly heads.

Dana Mackin in LACED ©Dark Sky Films

Laced begins with housewife Molly (Dana Mackin) preparing a meal in a log cabin in the mountains of Colorado. As she painstakingly makes the food, she talks to a mysterious voice on the phone about her process of executing a very important plan that night. Molly’s husband, Charlie (Butenhoff), walks in the door shortly thereafter. There is a blizzard of epic proportions swirling outside, and the couple know they will be snowed in for quite some time as a result. Charlie is excited to try Molly’s dinner but is unaware that it’s hiding a secret ingredient: poison. As Charlie watches the Denver Broncos football game, Molly makes her final preparations. What follows is a night that spins out of control quite quickly for both individuals, and one they won’t soon forget.

As director, Butenhoff grips the audience immediately, with tension already brewing in the first couple of minutes. This pressure builds and builds and never quite lets up throughout the entire 90-minute runtime, an impressive feat. It leads to an edge-of-your seat experience that never lets the viewer relax. Molly’s master plan is a good one, with many parts and several contingency plans. The layered concept is smart in many ways, but also somewhat surprisingly lacking in some areas. Plenty of wrinkles emerge to derail Molly’s intentions, exploiting both the strongest and weakest parts of the idea.

Kyle Butenhoff in LACED ©Dark Sky Films

The challenges she faces as a result are compelling to see play out. Her confidence and cunning begin to dwindle with each new obstacle that comes her way. Twists and turns are plentiful throughout, frustrating Molly but intriguing the viewer. She is the film’s central character, and the audience is never quite sure whether to feel sympathetic or antagonistic towards her. Obviously, she has a reason for what she’s doing, but it’s up to us to decide if it justifies her actions. Though there aren’t many, the other characters introduced in the film are multidimensional and fit well into the narrative. The audience is at an impasse because they care about almost everyone but know it won’t be sunshine and rainbows for all of them by the end.

While the plot and the characters keep the viewer invested, there are some shortcomings in Laced that threaten to foil Butenhoff’s vision. Though everyone is written well, some of the performances leave a bit to be desired, including Mackin as Molly. At times, there is a dry, monotone line delivery that doesn’t sound authentic, and Mackin is a culprit of this a few times. However, what is odd is that Mackin is exceptional in the more intense, emotional scenes even while underperforming with plain dialogue.

l-r: Hermione Lynch and Dana Mackin in LACED ©Dark Sky Films

In addition to the subpar performances, the film has some technical issues and writing gaffes. Firstly, the audio mix is extremely inconsistent. It is loud and booming at certain points and then is so soft that one struggles to hear what characters are saying at others. I had to adjust the volume on my TV on a few different occasions, which was quite bothersome. Also, the characters make some unbelievably bad decisions that lead the viewer to question their intellect. For example (without spoiling anything), let’s just say that one character tries to hide something in a very obvious spot that is frequented often. It’s things like that mistake that catches the viewer off-guard and takes them out of the movie.

While it has its shortcomings, Laced is still a very suspenseful, tense thriller with compelling characters. What’s more, when a film can sustain anxious feelings in both the people on screen and the ones watching at home over an entire hour and a half, I’d say you have a winner, even if that anxiety stems from some incredibly poor decisions on behalf of those on our TV. That’s the fun of movies though, isn’t it, swearing that we would do things better in the same situation? But would we? As this film teaches us, even the most perfect plan can implode under the right, or wrong, conditions.

Still from LACED ©Dark Sky Films

*Starting in 2024, all Film Festival Today reviews will now be rated out of 5 stars, rather than the previous 4-star system.


Matt Patti has enjoyed voicing his opinions on films from a young age. He has lived in the Baltimore, Maryland, area since 2015 and is a graduate of Stevenson University’s Film & Moving Image program. Matt is currently back at Stevenson University, working as the School of Design, Arts, and Communication's Studio Manager.

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