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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 Girl: Both Jules and Jackie are good with guns, particularly the latter, who is also handy using a knife.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Biology: After Jackie kills Sarah and Daniel, she's shown using a UV light to locate the blood to clean up, the blood showing up as glowing fluorescent white. Blood is black under UV lights. You have to spray luminol on it to make it glow.
  • Ax-Crazy: Jackie turns out to be a ruthless sociopath who attempts to murder Jules (as she did prior wives) and later also casually murders her neighbors after they find out.
  • 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.
  • 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. It's possibly downplayed. Jackie was seen calling the police, giving an exact address, and then an indeterminate amount of time passes until she dies in the woods from a stroke. If the police are able to find the scene fast enough, Jules may have a decent chance.
  • 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.
  • Book Ends: The film starts and ends with shots of the tree tops.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Jules has very short hair, in keeping with her masculine clothing style. She's a lesbian, then revealed as an action girl too.
  • 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' laptop, Jackie's insulin, the locket, Jackie's knife, and the tranquilizer darts.
  • Crocodile Tears: Jackie cries while denying she killed her friend Jenny... right before pushing Jules off a cliff. She is clearly skilled at faking them, along with other emotions.
  • Disguised Horror Story: While early on it's made clear that there's something Jackie is hiding, it still comes as a total shock when she throws Jules off a cliff and gradually reveals herself to be a psychopath.
  • Dying Dream: As Jackie dies from the syringe full of hydrogen peroxide she relives her childhood encounter with the bear.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: After throwing Jules off the cliff again and seemingly killing her for real this time, Jackie finds a video she made revealing that Jules had switched her insulin with hydrogen peroxide, creating blood clots in Jackie's system that will inevitably reach her brain and lead to her having a stroke. Of course, the very end shows that Jules may actually still just barely be alive.
  • Evil Redhead: Jackie is red-haired and a ruthless, homicidal sociopath.
  • 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 peeking out at her just a few feet away.
  • Fan Disservice: Jules is seen fully nude. Unfortunately it's when Jackie is drowning her in their bathtub.
  • Flashback: Jules experiences many of these, remembering happy moments in the past with her and Jackie. At the end, Jackie flashes back to her childhood killing a bear.
  • For the Evulz: While Jackie is a Serial Killer who kills her wives in order to collect the insurance money it's implied he also did it for the pleasure. This smees to be confirmed when Jules ask her how much her first wife was worth. She responds that she was "priceless."
  • 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: Jackie and Jules' first anniversary of their marriage is when everything goes down. Jackie nearly murders Jules for the insurance money.
  • Instant Sedation: Averted. Jules stabs Jackie with a tranquilizer dart, but Jackie is able to follow her, staying conscious for several minutes before collapsing.
  • Lesbian Jock: Jules tells Jackie, her wife, that she played baseball, in fact being the only girl there on her team.
  • Made of Iron: Jules survives what should have been a lethal fall from a cliff. Twice.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Jackie tries to do this, pushing Jules off a cliff and thus making it look accidental. In the past, she murdered her first wife too and made it appear to be a drowning accident.
  • Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple: In a downplayed example, Jules is masculine in her style, with short hair and men's tops. Jackie on the other hand wears her hair long and has slightly more feminine clothing. However, aside from that they don't fall into this very heavily.
  • 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.
  • Minimalist Cast: The film's cast consists of only four characters.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Jackie is a lesbian serial killer who kills her wives.
  • Serial Killer: Jackie is one. She attempts to murder Jules, and murdered her previous wives already. Later she also casually murders Daniel and Sarah.
  • The Sociopath: Jackie 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.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Classical music is playing when Jackie kills Daniel and is about to kill Sarah and when Jackie is running through the woods after injecting the hydrogen peroxide-laced insulin into herself.
  • 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.
  • Virtue Is Weakness: Jackie tells Jules that her conscience and emotions only make her weak.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Jules asks Jackie if she ever loved her. Jackie replies that no, it was all just a ploy to marry and then kill her for insurance money.
  • Wicked Cultured: Jackie takes a break from her cleaning of the crime scene to sit down and play Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.