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Monday, May 11, 2020

Sweetheart (2019)




One of the co-hosts for the podcast I co-host, Bloodbaths and Boomsticks, was talking about this movie and described it as “What if Tom Hanks in Cast Away was instead a woman that had to deal with a half man half shark monster every night?” Well that caught my attention. When I noticed this pop up on Netflix, I thought I needed to give it a chance.

The movie kicks off with our main character, Jenn, washing up on a beach. She has been shipwrecked with the only other survivor being a guy named Brad. He is badly hurt and dies not too long after being found. Jenn does a bit of exploring and finds that she is trapped on a small island by walking the beach all the way around. Then she goes inland and finds the creepy remains of a campsite that has been long abandoned. Eventually she realizes that something large and scary is crawling out of the ocean at night.  Some sort of shark monster that can walk on land. The rest of the movie is her and the shark doing battle with one another. Oh, and there are some other survivors that also show up to give a bit of character background on Jenn and that I think maybe had a story of their own that got cut somewhere. More on that later.

This is a very simple movie that leans heavy on its execution and abbreviated run time, clocking in at only eighty-two minutes, to engage the audience and keep us entertained. I’d say they succeeded because I enjoyed the heck out of Sweetheart. The first half of the movie we watch the Jenn character exploring the island and generally being spooked by the environment. Even before we see the creature they go a long way towards establishing a creepy atmosphere as well as tossing in a couple of jump scares that work very well. There isn’t much dialogue after Brad dies on the beach in the first couple of minutes which means that actress Kiersey Clemons has to carry the story with just her nonverbal acting skills. I really liked her performance and am looking forward to seeing her in other things.

In the second half of the movie another pair of survivors show up on a life raft including Jenn’s boyfriend Lucas. The dialogue between them hints at some relationship issues and that Jenn wasn’t the most reliable and trustworthy person. Perhaps they felt this was necessary to establish an action that she takes later in the movie. I won’t go into too much detail other than to say she makes sure to collect evidence to prove the monster exists.

I also think that there was some other plot thread that was perhaps removed from the final cut of the movie. Lucas and the woman on the raft, Mia, keep skulking about like they have some secret they are keeping from Jenn. There is also a bloodstain on Lucas’ pocketknife and a lot of blood on the raft. Jenn even asks them about mutual friend that may or may not have been on the raft with them. None of this is ever dealt with and is dropped at some point with the demise of Lucas and Mia. What is strange is that the filmmakers could have easily not included the mentions to this as none of the scenes that hint at it are important. That was sort of annoying.

I really do love this creature!
Being a monster movie, I have to talk creature effects. I’m not entirely sure if this is a practical suit or if it is CGI or perhaps a combination of both. That alone should tell you how much I enjoyed the design and execution of the special effects in Sweetheart. They keep us guessing for a long time only allowing glimpses of the monster in the shadows. The first big reveal uses a flare back lighting the thing while it strolls up out of the ocean and only in profile. When it is eventually seen on camera it looks fantastic and gives me everything I want in a shark monster. Yeah, I have preconceived expectations… so what? There isn’t a ton of gore, but we do get a couple nasty looking wounds and a waterlogged half body. As a whole this is a perfectly acceptable amount of gore and creature.

Looking around I don’t see that Sweetheart ever got a theatrical release. It seems to have played some festivals and then went straight to Netflix. Since this is a Blumhouse production I am surprised by that. I would have loved to seen something like this in the theaters. This is a solid flick that I recommend horror fans check out.


© Copyright 2020 John Shatzer

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