Shudder’s Lucky Explained: The Terror of Everyday Misogyny
Lucky isn’t your standard slasher or home invasion movie. Directed by Natasha Kermani and written by Brea Grant, who just starred in the fantastic creature film After Midnight Lucky a smart, layered film about the horrors of everyday misogyny. Grant’s character May, a self-help author, constantly deals with men quick to undercut her success or dub her hysterical when she describes her attacker. The non-descript, masked killer serves as a stand-in for daily sexism. He also represents the world May navigates.
Let’s Talk about Ted
Dhruv Uday Singh plays May’s non-supportive husband Ted. From the outset, it’s clear their relationship is unhealthy. Ted dismisses May’s career. When she talks to him about a recent book signing, he responds, “Can’t you just pre-sign them, hand them out, avoid conversation?” In this same scene, he calls her sensitive. To be fair, he says it with a smile and while he’s tickling her, but it’s reflective of a deeper abusive pattern. The fact Singh delivers the line in such deadpan fashion makes his character even more chilling.
The morning after “The Man” (Hunter C. Smith) arrives for the first time on screen, Ted ignores May’s concerns and tells her to “pull it together.” Further, he ditches her, declaring that he can’t be with her when she’s like this. Ted sees her as hysterical and overly emotional, a weapon used to keep women in their place for centuries. The word hysterectomy stems from hysterical, for example. Just read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s excellent and horrifying “The Yellow Wallpaper” or Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” for literary examples.
When Ted eventually returns in the closing minutes of the film, he keeps attacking May, even though he ironically asks her, “I’m your husband. How can I possibly hurt you?” Yet, a moment later, he calls her ridiculous, adding that when they fought, he tried to come up with solutions and wanted to talk rationally. He again tries to marginalize May and trap her in long-standing, sexist stereotypes regarding female hysteria and emotions. He even calls her crazy. Ted doesn’t understand that his words hurt. They have the ability to wound just like his fists.
The Other Men and Casual Sexism
Lucky underscores daily sexism. The other men are not much better than Ted. A male detective frequently questions May’s story. Several times, he asks the author about her husband, declaring that the case must be a domestic dispute, even though she tells him her husband and the man are different people. Yet, despite that, the detective doesn’t listen to her. Rather, he tells her to breathe. Like Ted, he views her as hysterical. He is dismissive and patronizing. The detective disregards her safety, ignores her story, and thus endangers her.
Even minor characters, like an EMT and a female social worker, question her sanity, again representing the larger societal problems that women face and their struggle to be heard and believed. It’s not a new issue, but it is finally being recognized. Change is a slow process, however.
Meanwhile, May’s literary agent (Leith M. Burke) underestimates her hard work that led to her success. At the beginning of the film, he and May meet in his office. When she questions why it’s taking so long to hear back from the publisher about her next book, he brushes off her concerns, unaware or uncaring about the emotional tax of constant book touring while working on the next project. For him, she is a commodity to be exploited and nothing more.
Later in the film, when he says the publisher wants her next book, he congratulates himself on the advance he landed her and then tells her that she’s lucky. Justifiably so, May flips, reminding him of the constant book tours, talks, signings, and rewrites. “I’m not lucky. I worked my ass off on that book,” she tells him. Unfortunately, taking credit for other’s work is just one of the problems women face.
The Stalker as Patriarchy Personified
May never learns the actual identity of the stalker, even though he shows up day after day, night after night. If anything, the killer is a metaphor for the daily sexism and misogyny that May and other women face. He is every man who belittles women. This is most evident late in the film when he’s seen attacking other women in a parking garage, the shadowy setting representative of female anxiety and male threats.
Prior to that, May notices scars on her sister-in-law’s (Kausar Mohammed) back, making it clear that she too had to defend herself against the man at some point. Yet, she downplays it, saying, “It’s just part of living in this world.” Her scars and her response to them exemplify the internalization of male violence and misogyny. To be a woman today, means you have scars. Some of them are physical, and even more, are hidden. Whether obvious or covered up, they exist.
The masked killer is the patriarchy personified, an ever-present danger to all women. By the end of the film, May is frazzled and tired, ready to give in. However, when the man invades her home once last time, she grabs a piece of broken glass and lunges at him. After they both stab each other (I think?), his face blurs into all the other men in the film. The final shot shows her stabbing him one more time when she sees the faces of the other men. She has finally had it with the disrespect. She is woman; hear her roar. Clearly, she still resists, even if she’s exhausted from the constant battle. It’s a shot across the bow, declaring for all women that they aren’t going to take it anymore.
Lucky warrants more than one viewing. Its time loop, surrealism, and mix of humor and serious commentary make it a layered film, a powerful statement about the daily threats women face and the struggle to be heard and believed. You can catch Lucky on Shudder now.
Brian Fanelli is a poet and educator who also enjoys writing about the horror genre. His work has been published in The LA Times, World Literature Today, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Horror Homeroom, and elsewhere. On weekends, he enjoys going to the local drive-in theater with his fiancé, or curling up on the couch and binge-watching movies with their cat, Giselle.