Yesterday I decided to cruise Netflix’s LGBTQ+ category to see what (if anything) was new, which is when I came across What Keeps You Alive. I’d heard of the thriller before, but other than the basic gist wasn’t too sure to expect.
And oh my god, it may actually be the worst queer movie I’ve ever seen.
If you are also queer, you realize the gravity of that statement; there are SO MANY TERRIBLE LGBTQ+ MOVIES, and I’ve totally watched a large majority of them, but I don’t think any of them made me as like, indignant as this one?!
I am about to take you through the entire bananas plot, and yes I am going to spoil the whole movie. If you’re not into that, stop reading right now. (I honestly don’t feel bad “ruining” the plot for you, though, because it was ruined before I even got here.)
Okay, let’s start at the beginning. Wives Jackie and Jules decide to head out to the Canadian wilderness to stay in Jackie’s remote cabin, a property that they have never visited before now for some reason. (My best guess is that they U-Hauled, which left very little time to learn about each other before getting married.) Jules exclaims, “Wow, your house is so sick!” or something to that effect, even though the house is clearly a creepy death trap from the get-go. Additionally, Jackie immediately begins acting like a psychopath because (spoiler) she is a psychopath.
“Wow your sharp shooting is so hot and impressive and not at all scary or foreshadowing-y!”
Later that night they get cozy by the fireplace as Jackie sings a heartwarming ballad about a demon. The rendition is such an incredible turn-on that Jules steals away the guitar and initiates a hookup. Before they can get to the good stuff, a strange car pulls up in the driveway. FEAR ENSUES! But it’s a false alarm! It’s just Sarah, a childhood friend of Jackie’s who lives with her husband across the lake. PHEW AMIRITE?! Except for that the childhood friend refers to Jackie as “Megan”, striking doubt into Jules’ heart; she’s all “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOUR REAL NAME IS MEGAN?! It’s like I don’t even know you!” and Jackie’s like, “When I figured out I was queer, I was like, I can’t go by Megan anymore! Don’t you get that?!” (I personally do not get that, as a queer person named Megan, but maybe I should reconsider my life choices?)
Anyway, the seeds of mistrust are beginning to sprout, especially when Jackie (aka the con-artist formerly known as Megan) keeps up the spooktown vibes; for instance, she recounts a story about how when she was a child she murdered a bear and watched the life slowly drain from its eyes. (Also, one day Jules takes a trip to Sarah’s house where she finds out that Jackie may or may not have had something to do with the death of their other childhood friend. No big deal!)
Jules starts acting weird around Jackie for obvious reasons, and Jackie calls her out. Jules reluctantly reveals she knows about the whole you-might’ve-maybe-murdered-someone conspiracy, which Jackie convincingly denies before pushing Jules over a cliff. That escalated fast! (Or I guess deescalated since there was a fall involved.)
Certain that Jules is dead, Jackie returns to the cabin to practice her sob story for 911. “You guys my wife fell and died wow v. sad please come send backup while I collect the life insurance money!”
When she goes back to check on the body, she finds that Jules is gone. (Not dead after all, drat dot com!)
Meanwhile, a very injured Jules is hobbling through the forest like a gay zombie, but it turns out she is rubbish at escaping since (rather than getting away) she spends like twenty-four hours hiding from Jackie, who is now very obviously trying to finish the job. When the coast is momentarily clear, Jules goes back to the cabin (great idea!) to stitch herself up, which is where she realizes that Jackie apparently does this shit (meaning murdering her unsuspecting wives) all the time // she discovers a box full of lockets (identical to the one she was given) that are apparently Jackie’s trademark murder memento.
When Jackie inevitably gets back, Jules makes a run for it; she hops in a rowboat to try to get across the lake to Sarah’s house for help. Uh-oh, though, ’cause there’s another rowboat, and within like thirty seconds Jackie is hot on her tail! “GO AWAY, JACKIE, YOU FUCKING PSYCHO!” Jules keeps yelling in an annoyed tone. Girl, she’s trying to kill you, not steal your fries! A little more urgency, please!
Anyway, Jackie catches up and commandeers Jules’ vessel, but before she can do any kill-v.-maiming, they realize that Sarah’s husband is on the dock when he calls out, “Hey y’all, everything okay?” (Like, Jules is bleeding profusely from the head, but apparently homeboy doesn’t have his glasses on?) Jackie’s all, “Jules if you tell him I’m going to kill, then you I’m going to kill you.” This strong logic for keeping quiet resonates with Jules, who pretends everything is fine. She does, however, invite the couple over for dinner that night in what is easily the stupidest attempt to buy time that has ever existed. The husband says they’ll be there, and Jackie angrily rows the two of them back to the house to get cleaned up.
“Hope y’all like lentil loaf!”
Again, we see that Jules is the most poorly equipped human re: escaping death, you guys. Like, I don’t know that the takeaway is supposed to be “I would be much better at not dying than this bitch,” but that was what I personally gained from this viewing experience.
Sarah and her husband arrive at Jackie’s cabin, and now THERE ARE THREE NON-MURDERERS WHO COULD WORK TOGETHER TO DEFEAT A COMMON PSYCHOPATHIC ENEMY // JACKIE IS UNARMED, BUT JULES STILL SAYS NOTHING. Until after dinner, that is, when Jackie is out on the porch talking with Sarah’s husband. Jules gets bold and decides to whisper to Sarah (who already believed Jackie was a psychopath) what’s been going on, which Jackie sees through the window. Sarah yells for her husband to get away, but whoops too late ’cause Jackie slits his throat! Meanwhile, Jules and Sarah could easily make a run for it, or like, call the damn cops at least, but nope, they both seem p. content to perish! Jackie stabs the shit out of Sarah, and then she makes Jules (who, again, had MULTIPLE opportunities to GTFO) help her chop up the bodies and throw them in the lake. (What a great dinner party!)
Then she just like, ties Jules up in the house or whatever (which is completely unnecessary since it is clear that Jules is apparently physically incapable of exiting the situation regardless); while you’d think Jackie would just get the show on the goddamn road, she is still hellbent on pushing Jules off that damn cliff so she can collect the life insurance policy $$$ sans suspicion. (Also like…if you’ve killed a fuck ton of your former wives you’d think there would be some level of caution re: drawing attention to yourself, but maybe this is an unexpected perk of being gay married? Like whenever you murder your spouse, people just shrug their shoulders like “GAL PALS AMIRITE?!”)
They head back out to the cliff in the morning via car, and you’re just kind of like, “Whelp, Jules is a goner!” but she actually (surprisingly) does a thing and stabs Jackie in the neck with a tranquilizer dart! FINALLY, A FRUITFUL BIT OF ACTION! She hops out of the car and makes a run for it, but guess where she fucking goes straight to?! THE FUCKING CLIFF’S EDGE! AND THEN SHE’S LIKE, “NO, NOT AGAIN!” AS IF THIS SITUATION HAD NOT BEEN WHOLLY AVOIDABLE!
And within seconds, there’s Jackie, who has managed to stave off unconsciousness long enough to catch up. Like, at this point I’m just sort of going, “Y’know what, maybe this is a Darwinian thing. You kind of are asking for it now, Jules.” (PS was this movie co-written by Hayley Kiyoko as some sort of fucked up “Cliff’s Edge” promo?)
Fortunately (or unfortunately? I’m honestly not even sure who to root for anymore…) the tranquilizer kicks in at the last minute, and Jackie collapses into a deep, murdery sleep. Jules can make a run for it! She gets in the car and starts to drive.
She’s free! COMMON SENSE PREVAILS AT LAST!
Oh…but wait…what is she…no…she can’t be…she’s not going BACK, is she?!
Of course she is, because as I previously stated, SHE IS THE FUCKING WORST ESCAPIST IN THE HISTORY OF ESCAPING.
“What I lack in ability to escape I make up for in ability to survive falling from great heights!”
She turns the car around to head back to the cliff (to make Jackie pay or something?), but Jackie isn’t there anymore. DRAT DOT COM 2.0! She goes back to the cabin again like the true genius she is, and that’s where she decides to wait patiently with a rifle that’s been ominously hanging over the mantle. She also dramatically blares some shitty metal song via the laptop, which she knows Jackie will hear and come a’runnin’. (As one does!)
And it works! Jackie hears the song and returns by nightfall. But now the real question – does Jules kill Jackie now that she’s got the home side advantage?
Of course not, because she’s the worst!
Jules even manages to get Jackie to kneel on the floor with her hands behind her head and everything, but after Jackie tells her the gun is an antique and she’ll end up shooting herself by accident, Jules hesitates just long enough for Jackie to get free. And of course Jackie knocks Jules out, and of course she drags her back to that same goddamn cliff’s edge, and of course she pushes her over again.
(PS I am getting real fucking sick of saying “Jackie” and “Jules” over and over again. Also, side note…there are like 800 more plausible gay ways to die than just like falling off a cliff, you guys. Example: “The IKEA bookshelf we shoddily assembled collapsed on her and she died!” or “The softball came out of nowhere and she died!” etc.)
Jackie goes back to the cabin and calls 911 to come and help, and then she goes and pukes in the bathroom. Is this her having remorseful feelings?! No, it actually turns out that Jules thought ahead for once and replaced Jackie’s insulin (she takes insulin shots, which was very briefly exposed at the beginning of the film // AHA, COOL PLOT TWIST!) with hydrogen peroxide, which I guess gives you blood clots and makes you have a stroke? I only know this because Jules took the time to make a fucking VIDEO PRESENTATION about it that plays on the laptop after Jackie realizes something is the matter. “Dear Jackie, if you’re watching this, it means I am dead,” she reveals dramatically before giving a play-by-play of her dastardly plan.
I mean, I laughed really hard. WHAT EVEN IS THIS MOVIE?!
BUT ALSO, WHY WOULDN’T YOU DO THE INSULIN SWOOP ‘N SWAP AND THEN JUST GET IN THE FUCKING CAR AND LEAVE?! (?!)
Anyway, Jackie (realizing she’s been had) begins exaggeratedly running into the forest to the tune of “Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92, II. Allegretto” by Ludwig van Beethoven (seriously, I cannot even handle it) where she finally collapses into the grass and dies or has a stroke or something. (She also sees a bear! Symbolism!)
Then at the very end they go back to an ultra-dead-looking Jules. BUT WAIT! As the camera pans up to the trees we can hear a faint breathing sound, so I guess she survived again? Maybe? Do we honestly even care anymore? (I don’t care anymore.)
I am just like, flabbergasted that this film exists. (WHY DOES IT EXIST?! FOR WHOMST?!)
So the moral of the story is like, A) don’t watch this movie, but also on a larger scale B) if you are riding out this pandemic as a single person and/or not living the vacation life in a house upstate like so many people are according to Instagram, IT IS PROBABLY FOR THE BEST.
ALSO, I REPEAT: I FEEL LIKE ALL OF US WOULD BE BETTER AT ESCAPING THAN JULES.
(Ugh why did I watch this, MY BLOOD PRESSURE. IS THROUGH. THE ROOF. K bye, y’all.)