Jason Blum is the Vincent Price of the 21st century. From new classic franchises like Paranormal Activity to Oscar-winning horror satires like Get Out, Blumhouse has brought countless horror films to the big and small screen. This quantity has its drawbacks, though: occasionally, a truly great film can slip through the cracks. One of Blumhouse’s most ambitious and impressive works is currently on Netflix, and it’s the perfect Halloween watch.
Sweetheart is a 2019 horror-thriller starring Kiersey Clemons. It starts as just your run of the mill survival film. Someone washes up to a deserted island, tearfully comes to terms with their fate, and then searches for supplies. It’s the same premise of Cast Away, Swiss Family Robinson, even Madagascar. But unlike all of those movies, the “survival” aspect of Sweetheart is a lot more literal.
When Jenn washes up onto the mysterious island, she immediately finds her friend Brad, who soon dies from wounds he suffered in the ocean. Completely alone with nobody to talk to, Jenn’s journey is relatively silent for a good portion of the film. While Cast Away used Wilson as a sounding board to create dialogue, Sweetheart rides purely on Kiersey Clemons' powerful performance.
This performance is fully displayed once Jenn realizes she's not alone on the island. When she buries the body of her friend, she finds it dug up and mutilated the next day. There's something evil and vicious lurking. Suddenly, it's not a fight against the elements, it's a fight against something unknown, and possibly not of this Earth.
Because of this greater conflict, the Cast Away part of the film takes a backseat, all for the better. Watching someone try, fail, and eventually succeed at hunting is the stuff of Discovery Channel shows, not sci-fi movies. The cool parts are allowed room to breathe, like Jenn methodically sharpening sticks to provide defense or harvesting bait, even if that bait is human.
The creature itself is impressive, but don't expect state-of-the-art CGI. That's part of the movie's charm. Keeping the monster hidden from view is a big part of the classic creature feature rulebook. It creates intrigue and mystery while hiding whatever flaws are in the big reveal. Still, the movie is by no means low-budget, and the monster still looks believable enough for a good scare.
Sweetheart is a movie of determination, isolation, and survival, just like most castaway movies. But instead of escaping back to civilization, Jenn is escaping from a chase to the death. It's a nifty premise, and lucky for Netflix subscribers, it's deftly executed.
Sweetheart is now streaming on Netflix.