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Film / What Keeps You Alive

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What Keeps You Alive is a 2018 suspense/horror film written and directed by Colin Minihan. It tells the story of Jules (Brittany Allen) and Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) who celebrate their one-year anniversary by spending time at Jackie's family home in the remote wilderness. But soon after they arrive, an old friend of Jackie's shows up and calls Jackie by a different name. Jackie's explanation - that she changed her name to cut ties with her old life once she came out as gay - is plausible enough. But it sets Jules wondering what other secrets her wife might be keeping. And then Jackie decides to show her all at once...


This film contains examples of the following:

  • Action Survivor: Jules
  • Alone with the Psycho: A trope usually reserved for the climactic scene here expands to take up almost the entire film.
  • Animal Motifs: Jackie and Jules play a game where one of them tries to guess what bird the other is impersonating. Jules later sees a crow at an important moment in the film and decides to act based on the association she has between the crow and Jackie. Bears also have a special association with Jackie.
  • Ax-Crazy: Jackie.
  • Badass Lesbian: Jackie's father taught her how to hunt as a child and she is now highly competent with both firearms and knives as a result. By the end of the film, however, Jules has come to qualify for this trope as well.
  • Big Bad: Jackie, who spends the entire film trying to kill her wife.
  • Black Widow: Jackie's M.O. is to murder her wives while making it look like an accident, then collect the insurance money, change her name, and start again. Jules calls her out on it, saying the money is just an excuse and she kills because she's desperate to feel any kind of emotion at all.
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  • Bolivian Army Ending: Right before the screen cuts to black Jules lets out a gasp from off camera that indicates that she is still alive. But she now has even more severe injuries on top of all the previous ones she sustained earlier in the film and she's still miles away from civilization.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Justified. Jackie has Jules at her mercy for most of the film, but has to keep her alive until she can make her death look like an accident that will not draw any suspicion.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Jules is forced to use an antique rifle that Jackie claims hasn't been fired in fifty years.
  • *Click* Hello: The final battle begins with one of these.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: This film has the oldest type of Chekhov's Gun there is: an actual gun displayed above a mantlepiece. But there's also Jules 's laptop, Jackie's insulin, the locket, Jackie's knife, and the tranquilizer darts.
  • Dying Dream: As Jackie dies from the syringe full of hydrogen peroxide she relives her childhood encounter with the bear.
  • Evil Redhead: Jackie
  • Failed a Spot Check: When Jackie is looking for someone she has a very bad habit of just not turning her head far enough to be able to see them when they are peaking out at her just a few feet away.
  • Fan Disservice: Jules is seen in full nudity. Unfortunately it's when Jackie is drowning her in their bathtub.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Jackie delivers one to a tied up Jules, scolding her for how her conscience makes her weak.
  • Hope Spot: When the neighbor couple comes to visit Jules manages to get the wife alone to let her know that something is wrong. But Jackie catches her at it and simply kills the neighbor couple on the spot.
    • A second one occurs immediately afterward when Jules manages to struggle free of her bonds and stab her captor. But this is All Just A Dream.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Anniversary.
  • Instant Sedation: Averted. Jules stabs Jackie with a tranquilizer dart, but the victim is able to follow her attacker, staying conscious for several minutes before collapsing.
  • Kill 'Em All: There are only four characters in the cast. And all of them are dead or dying by the end.
  • Knife Nut: Despite being more than competent with firearms, Jackie's hunting knife seems to be her go-to weapon in just about any situation.
  • Made of Iron: Jules survives what should have been a lethal fall from a cliff. Twice.
  • Mercy Kill: Averted. Jackie attempted this the first time she shot a bear but her gun jammed and she was forced to watch it slowly die. Both dialogue and the ending heavily imply this to have been her Start of Darkness.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Jackie is a lesbian serial killer who kills her wives.
  • Serial Killer: Jackie, again.
  • The Sociopath: Jackie, a Black Widow who murders her wives partly for the insurance money and partly in a desperate attempt to feel something. She's such a textbook sociopath that we see her practicing a grief reaction in front of a mirror.
  • Start of Darkness: Jackie claims she was always the way that we see her. But dialogue and the final scenes heavily imply that the first animal she ever shot was this for her.
  • Thanatos Gambit: A truly epic one, courtesy of Jules. Just in case she does not survive her final confrontation with Jackie, she switches out the latter's insulin with hydrogen peroxide: a substance that causes a fatal stroke when injected into the bloodstream. It works. The taunting that she delivers via prerecorded video message.
  • Title Drop: When Jackie explains her father's philosophy for hunting: "You only kill what keeps you alive." i.e., Be sure to utilize what you kill. Which Jackie then goes on to do: marrying women, then killing them to collect the insurance money.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer leaves no ambiguity about the fact that Jackie is a serial murderer.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Jules goes through a bewildering amount of physical and psychological torment throughout the course of this film.
  • The Unfettered: Jackie to such a ludicrous degree that her heart rate doesn't even increase when she chases someone up a flight of stairs and stabs them to death.
  • Wicked Cultured: Jackie takes a break from her cleaning of the crime scene to sit down and play Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

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