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Sundance 2019: Kiersey Clemons Leads a Fresh and Riveting​ Creature Feature in ‘Sweetheart’ – Review

Blumhouse Productions have built themselves up as the masters of modern horror and to no one’s surprise, they prove it again with director J.D Dillard’s (Sleight) new film, Sweetheart. There can be no other way to describe it but as a true gem in this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Kiersey Clemons (Dope) leads this horrific tale of surviving on a deserted island where an otherworldly monster from the deep is the only thing keeping her company when it feeds at night. The creature is brought to life with a perfect example of precision in combining practical effects with CGI. The use of the creature is reminiscent of classic horror films such as Jaws. One should not worry though because the scares that are promised are delivered well at the right times.  The synthesizer-heavy score adds to the overall experience and will probably be stuck in one’s head long after the movie is over.

Kiersey Clemons and Justin Dillard. (Courtesy of Getty Images North America)

Sweetheart shines with its pure focus on simplicity. The cast, including the creature, consists of exactly five characters, much like another favourited creature-feature, A Quiet Place. Clemons makes the absolute most of the role, which half the time is without dialogue, to firmly grasp one’s undivided attention from start to finish. This is truly a highlight in her sprouting career. The film wastes no time in getting to the point: survival. However, this simple structure is not without a beating heart. Dillard’s direction finds a balance between standard creature-feature and human perseverance.

Sweetheart feels like it will find a huge following upon wide release. It has it where it counts in the many characteristics of horror. It does not feel overly derivative to other films in the genre. Thankfully, expected scenarios are often diverted for something better. Though Dillard does have lots of fun when diving into similar tropes. Horror fans will gratefully consume the many gifts of Sweetheart. Outstanding and jaw-dropping visuals accompany Dillard’s ace direction.

Above all, Sweetheart achieves a high re-watch status through its leading heroine and her journey. Sometimes it takes facing a sea creature to prove others that one is capable of breaking titles and expectations. This sets another bar for modern horror.

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