PEOPLE HOLD ON (2015) – directed by Michael Seater – SPOILERS
The opening scene is one that almost always engenders trepidation. Eight attractive young people arrive at a remote cabin in the woods for a summer weekend. There were supposed to be only seven, but Dan (Robin’s ex) has brought his new girlfriend Marley – one seemingly harmless stranger among close friends who have not seen each other for too long. Freddy, the owner of the cabin, knew about Dan’s plan, but told no one else. Freddy is in love with Alycia, and was likely preoccupied with that.
PEOPLE HOLD ON is an unexpectedly engaging story, but watching it is like being alone at a party full of strangers. One picks the most entertaining folks to focus on. For me, the indecisive one (Robin, played by Paula Brancati), Dan the alpha male (Al Mukadam), Freddy the nerd (Jonathan Malen), and the insecure one (Alycia, played by Katie Boland) are the main characters. Milquetoasty Matthew (Noah Reid), adventuresome Julia (Ashley Leggat), sensible Darren (Mazin Elsadig), and voluptuous Marley (Chloe Rose) are there to interact revealingly with the main four.
Freddy is adorable, and brings to mind Willow’s boyfriend Oz on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Matthew writes really nice songs.
The interactions betwen the newly paired and the old flames and the romantic hopefuls are fascinating, but the thought persists that somewhere, deep in the woods, or at the bottom of that pretty lake, something evil might lurk. Were this a horror flick, who might be the first victims? The first to have sex are Julia and Darren, but they are engaged to be married and so would not need to be immediately devoured by whatever horror might be hungry. This makes one really concerned for Alycia and Freddy because they had spontaneous sex after ingesting mushrooms.
Only three of these people ever tell us what they do for a living. Marley is an artist, Matthew a songwriter, and Alycia works at a bar. The rest seem to have left mundane considerations back in the city, and never discuss the source of their income. They all drink beer from pastel coloured, tall aluminum cans, so they are not connoisseurs; nor are they health obsessed.
Alycia is on a diet (a symptom of her insecurities). Dan lives in his parent’s basement. Without giving away too much, it is fair to assume that Julia’s family has money.
Will Robin and Dan get back together? Will Alycia be inspired to admit her interest in Freddy? Will Julia and Darren’s engagement survive the weekend? Are any of those questions ultimately relevant? This film is full of surprises, not the least of which is the ending (which I will not describe), which was quietly spectacular, completely unexpected, and made the whole thing worthwhile.
Filmed in Parry Sound, Ontario, PEOPLE HOLD ON is director Michael Seater‘s first feature film. His second film, SADIE’S LAST DAYS ON EARTH, is about a high school student (Morgan Taylor Campbell) who becomes obsessed with her belief in the approaching apocalypse. That movie also has Paula Brancati in the cast, and was released in the US and Canada last December.