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Holding, The 
Written by: on September 16th, 2011

Theatrical Release Date: UK, September 9th, 2011
Director: Susan Jacobson
Writer: James Dormer
Cast: Kierston Wareing, Vincent Regan, Skye Lourie, Terry Stone, David Bradley

DVD released: September 12th, 2011
Approximate running time: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35.1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound English, Dolby Digital Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH (Hard Of Hearing)
DVD Release: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99

On an isolated farm in the English countryside, Cassie Naylor fights back and kills her abusive husband. She buries his body and tells her daughters, snarly teenager Hannah and infant Amy, that their father has abandoned the family. As the months pass Cassie struggles to run the farm by herself while there are financial pressures to keep up payments on it, especially when neighbouring landowner Karsten makes it clear that he has designs on both Cassie, who does not reciprocate, and taking over the property. One day a drifter called Aden arrives, claiming to be an old friend of Cassie’s husband. He charms his way into her life by offering his services on the farm in return for bed and board, but his presence causes unease with threatening behaviour from Karsten and sexual tension between Aden and Hannah. As things begin to unravel people begin to disappear, Aden erupts into violence as he attempts to maintain a perfect family existence at any cost. 

While watching The Holding it is difficult not to view it as a hybrid of several films patch worked together – the rural British setting recalls the original Straw Dogs; the independent woman fighting to keep her property against aggressive male forces comes from Once Upon A Time In The West; the mysterious stranger who may or not be some sort of ghostly presence is clearly inspired by High Plains Drifter; and last but not least, the psychopath who craves a ready-made family is reminiscent of The Stepfather. The familiarity may be inevitable, yet it is a credit to the filmmakers that, for the most part, all these components come together to fashion an effectively taut picture in its own right. Making her feature debut, director Susan Jacobson balances both the testosterone brutality of the male characters with the sensitive nuances of the all-female family unit very well. Restricted mostly to the confines of the farm, there is an intense intimacy achieved within the cinemascope frame with uniformly excellent performances, particularly from Kierston Wareing (Fish Tank) as the strong-willed Cassie, while Vincent Regan (300) is suitably unhinged as Aden. Relative newcomer Skye Lourie is memorable as Hannah, and it will be interesting to see what roles she will go onto do in the future.

At the Frightfest 2011 screening there was a question and answers session with the cast and crew, during which writer James Dormer revealed that the screenplay was originally conceived to have a supernatural element but this was eventually reworked and removed during rewrites. This becomes painfully obvious while watching the film, since two-thirds of the narrative plays as a horror film. Jacobson creates and sustains suspense on the ambiguity of Aden’s identity, while the screenplay is peppered with odd touches such as Cassie’s youngest daughter Amy obsessively reading and quoting from the bible. All of these elements are alluding to a suitably gothic revelation, but instead the final act becomes a rather pedestrian domestic thriller with some moments which clearly are remanence to the supernatural aspect of the story – such as the child reading the bible – now rendered pointless. This is not to say that The Holding doesn’t hold together until the very end, since Jacobson’s direction maintains tautness and the credible characters are serviced by committed performances, but it does lack a satisfactory otherworldly resolution that the script appears to be building towards.

The DVD:

As expected for a 2011 production, the imagery and audio are pristine. The 2.35.1 cinemascope photography has a cool colour template which suits both the subject matter and the location setting, and the DVD accurately captures the visuals as depicted in the theatrical presentation of the film. 

There are some welcome bonus features on the DVD, particularly The Making Of The Holding (11 minutes) with the main cast and crew discussing the film and their roles within it. Produced by Blue Robot Films, it is a nicely filmed (with its texture and depth it looks better than the usual EPK piece) and informative piece worthwhile for anybody who wants to know more about the film’s production. Deleted Scenes (10 minutes) are mostly trims to sequences already present in the film and are not of much significant interest but there is the alternative ending to the film which, for the most part, is similar to the finale used in the actual film, but includes an awful alligator grin coda after the last scene which was wisely excused from the eventual edit. One Hundredth Of A Second (6 minutes) is a short film that Susan Jacobson made in 2006 which thematically shares similarities to The Holding in regards to female characters who find themselves in violent, male-dominated situations. Finally, there is a Photo Gallery featuring nine images from the film.

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