Julian Barnes once called writing across gender the “one basic test of competence.” This clearly isn’t basic: look how often movies, Hollywood and art-house alike, consistently fail the Barnes (not to mention the Bechdel) test. Whenever another disappointing, one-dimensional female character waltzes onscreen (from Grace Kelly in Rear Window to Carey Mulligan in Inside Llewyn Davis), I know the first thing my partner will say afterward: well, that was obviously made by a man. Which is to say: what we just saw wasn’t an authentic person, let alone woman.
David Robert Mitchell’s recent horror film is a work of in-betweens, as straightforward yet mysterious as its title suggests. The premise: Moments after a turn in the backseat of her new boyfriend’s car, nineteen-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe) learns that she will now be the subject of pursuit by a rotating cast of slow-walking predators. To impress upon Jay the seriousness of the situation, her date, who calls himself Hugh, chloroforms her, binds her to a wheelchair, and stations her in the middle of a disused parking structure, while out of the dark stalks a pale naked woman.