During the COVID-19 pandemic, The New York Times is dedicated to evaluating new theatrical releases. Since going to the movies during this period can be dangerous, we urge readers to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s and local health officials’ health and safety recommendations. It’s particularly aggravating to see a horror film with a brilliant plot but poor execution. The home invasion thriller “Held” starts off with a great idea: combining “Saw’s” “obey an invisible lord” gimmick with “The Stepford Wives'” “how to be a perfect spouse” social satire. However, it lacks the ingenuity and panache to make its schtick zing.
Jill Awbrey wrote the screenplay for “Held” and also stars as Emma, a woman looking forward to a relaxing getaway with her husband Henry at a remote rental home (Bart Johnson). The hotel they’re staying in is opulent and sleek, with cutting-edge appliances and security systems. It also comes with its own masked creep, who comes out at night to drug and imprison the guests, unbeknownst to Emma. The couple’s clothes have been changed to something more conservative and they’ve been locked in when they wake up after their first woozy evening. Soon after, the masked man barks commands, demanding that they face their shortcomings as husband and wife — and that they pretend to be an old-fashioned family, with the woman in the role of subservience.
Awbrey and the film’s co-directors, Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, spend time establishing a pattern of sexist abuse directed at Emma, from a ride-share driver pressuring her for a tip to Henry’s apparent dismissal of her. Emma’s strange plight is merely an exaggeration of the high demands that she faces on a daily basis.