The Holding

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“Hell hath no fury like a mother defending her children.”

Cassie Naylor (Wareing) is struggling to keep her head above water on the farm she’s now running almost single-handed, eight months after her husband vanished. What the locals don’t know is that she buried him in a remote spot on the Derbyshire moors, with the help of part-time farmhand Cooper (Bradley), for reasons not initially clear. The arrival of a transient, Aden (Regan, looking not unlike a rougher version of Gerard Butler), seems like a godsend, and they agree he can work in exchange for food and lodgings. However, it’s not long before Aden’s less-desirable tendencies start to show through. While he’s fiercely loyal – dispatching anyone whom he perceives as a threat – he seems to regard Cassie and her two daughters as “his” family, and seems to know rather too much about them.

Clearly influenced by The Stepfather, this is still its own creature, with Cassie a strong, independent heroine of the first degree, who will do absolutely anything to protect her children, even if one is a Bible-thumper and the other an immensely-irritating teenage brat. Indeed, it’s probably important to note that [here be spoilers, highlight the text if you want to read it] all the women survive, and only men die. How much of this was the input of a woman director – itself, fairly unusual for the genre – is open to discussion. Another big plus is that the film doesn’t rely too much on the stupidity of the main characters, which is a common flaw; their behaviour here is relatively logical, though there were times when the victims did not take an avenue of escape that appeared to be open to them.

The look of the film is impressive, with a lush pastoral feel early on, that eventually turns into a dark, rain-drenched nightmare as things become bloody. However, the main strength are performances which are believable, on both sides of the fence, effectively ramping up the tension as the body-count increases. It builds to a satisfactorily invigorating battle, in which Cassie has exhausted all legitimate hope of rescue and is thrown entirely on to her own tenacity and survival skills. Ellen Ripley would certainly approve, even if here, the monster being opposed for maternal reasons has a human face.

Dir: Susan Jacobson
Star: Kierston Wareing, Vincent Regan, David Bradley, Skye Lourie

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