Ed. note– Occasionally I go beyond fright when I do a review. Whether it’s George Romero’s KNIGHTRIDERS or Richard Donner’s SCROOGED, there’s always a valid, tangential reason. Most times it’s a director I admire and great filmmaking I want to discuss. Hence, Jeremiah Kipp’s “Pickup,” which fulfills both those criteria. This may not be for the core horror audience, but if you dismiss it because there are no vampires or slashers in it, that’s your loss.– P.F.
Sometimes a film is a gut punch. It hits me so hard in the solar plexus that the breath flies out of me and I’m left sore inside. Hell of Famer Jeremiah Kipp’s short “Pickup” is that sort of film, a tale of unfulfilled longings and desires, at its heart the crumbling of a family. It’s depressing fare, which left me feeling as empty as its central character Megan, who’s portrayed in a stunning turn by Mandy Evans. It’s not Kipp’s usual horror fare, but it’s as emotionally horrifying as anything in his horror films.
Megan is an unsatisfied housewife. Her husband is often late at the office, and in the two exchanges between the couple, all he talks about is business, while she catalogues the banality of suburban life. There’s a hole in the middle of their marriage, which she cannot fill with him, and of which he is totally oblivious. In attempt to fix that hole, she’s taken to a dating app for random pickups. Those encounters are intense and orgasmic, but they’re also fleeting, and leave her just as empty as her marriage once the sex is done. There seems no path to joy for a woman who’s likely no older than her late 20s, and if I extrapolate, that means a lot of barren years ahead of her.
Megan’s only moments of joy are when she’s with her son. The two bond, and she’s affectionate with him as with nobody else in the short. He’s her anchor, even as the ship is adrift and perhaps soon to go under. The short’s title has a double meaning, as one of her random pickups has made her miss picking up the boy when he gets sick at school. There’s a reckoning to be had once she finally arrives, as her husband is there and for the first time questions her behavior. But he’s a part of the problem, with his sheepish ignorance. That poor boy, though, has done nothing to deserve any of this, and whatever happens will suffer.
Will I condemn Megan? It would be easy to do, and I’m sure many other viewers will. But I can’t so easily. I condemn the behavior, but Megan is just another broken human in a sea of them. Instead of facing her marital problems, she grows cold to her husband and turns him out when he kisses her. She’s probably been doing this for a while, and who knows how many empty encounters she’s had before the film starts. Those unfulfilled desires to feel again, to connect with a man in a spiritual way, are punishment enough. Kudos to Mandy Evans, for taking on a character who she had to know would be cast down by so many viewers, and investing it with all the humanity, dread and heartache that consume Megan. There’s a haunted quality to her performance, that’s absolutely gut wrenching as things proceed to fall apart. Evans does a phenomenal job with the character, and I’d love to see more of her.
As for Kipp, the film may be outside the genre of most of his work, but it still has plenty of his trademarks. The family unit is broken, and there are clear signs of addiction and the accompanying behavior. Kipp is always challenging his audience, and here he challenges me to empathize with a woman who’s cheating on her husband. The visuals, this time with the handiwork of DP Eric Giovan, are just as lush and gorgeous as in all of Kipp’s work, even as they’re a bit more grounded. I can’t count on much in life, but I can always count on Kipp making great films, as he does once again with “Pickup.”
Filmed from a script by Jessica Blank and anchored by a commanding performance from Mandy Evans, Jeremiah Kipp’s “Pickup” hit me right in the stomach, and I’m still recovering. This is powerhouse filmmaking from a talented group, and the body blow is well worth taking for the art.