This Underrated Blumhouse Horror Movie Is Unlike Any Other Creature Feature

Estimated read time 7 min read

The Big Picture

  • Sweetheart
    ‘s rapid start builds tension and delves into character nuances, offering a unique take on the survival thriller genre.
  • The effective and symbolic creature design in
    balances psychological elements and a suspenseful script.
  • The action-packed third act reveals deeper thematic concerns and character dynamics with a satisfying conclusion.

Blumhouse has a near decades-long history of delivering audiences fright-filled escapist fare mostly planted in the horror genre, including fan favorites such as Sinister and last year’s M3gan but director J.D. Dillard‘s terrific Sweetheart goes after something a little different, and proves wildly successful in the process. A thought-provoking survival thriller with some monstrous visuals to spare, the 82-minute Sweetheart is a speedy watch, and a frantic plunge into the depths of adrenaline-charged terror. Dillard had already floated in and out of the supernatural via episodes of The Twilight Zone and the excellent Ben Mendelsohn-led HBO series The Outsider, and here, he gets the chance to fully embrace a feature-length exercise in sustained tension. Led by Kiersey Clemons, whose character begins the film a mental wreck and half-drowned, washed ashore on an anonymous island somewhere, marooned — Dillard’s movie begins right in the thick of a difficult situation and races towards a conclusion that’ll leave audiences peeling away hoping things turn out okay for our protagonist. Sweetheart is one of the strongest, most ambitious horror flicks in the Blumhouse canon, and it’s a marvel at how the mostly one-setting chamber piece manages to incorporate several filmic styles so successfully into its concise runtime.

Sweetheart Movie Poster


A woman washes ashore a small uninhabited island after an accident. The situation turns from bad to worse when she realizes there is a mysterious creature hunting at night.

Release Date January 28, 2019

Director J.D. Dillard

Runtime 82

Main Genre Horror

Writers J.D. Dillard , Alex Hyner , Alex Theurer

What Is Blumhouse’s ‘Sweetheart’ About?

Director Dillard takes a quickfire approach to elevating the drama here; opting to kick-start the film via a breathless opening that leaves little time for a drawn-out setup. Bypassing the provision of heavy backstory hints to antecedent events arrive as psychological suggestions as the viewer is fed more and more clues regarding Jennifer Remmings’ (Clemons) recent history and mental state as her plight on the island, alone and battling, worsens. As the film begins, Jennifer hauls herself from the ocean across the sand, bedraggled and in the throes of exhaustion, having narrowly escaped with her life after an apparent sinking (it’s later revealed she was a passenger on a doomed party vessel engulfed by a storm). Thinking herself alone, she quickly discovers one of her companions, Brad (Benedict Samuel), severely wounded and barely breathing.

Urgently photographed, a shot of immediacy courses through the film’s atmosphere from the get-go — an air of genuine desperation well and truly afoot. Despite Jenn’s best efforts, Brad doesn’t survive, albeit not before cryptically asking, “Did you see it?” leaving her to fend for herself on a geographically ambiguous island against adversaries that continue to pile up. Putting a unique spin on the castaway premise, Jennifer is quickly revealed to be determinedly resourceful if reactionary, never immune to bouts of suffocating fear. Ultimately then, she is deeply human, and Dillard (also one of the writers) and Clemons deserve plaudits for so credibly building up the character of Jenn — a protagonist dropped into a situation requiring her to confront both the dormant monster within and the creature that emerges at night. After discovering the remnants of an old campsite, plaintively rifling through photos and artifacts suggestive of whoever had briefly occupied the island before, considering their fate, one observes Jenn’s own partially broken state. It seems Dillard’s story is about how our past informs our present — we all act and respond to a given set of circumstances, which informs how we proceed — doubts, worries, triumphs, and all.

‘Sweetheart’ Is Also a Well Wrought Creature Feature

The monstrous entity itself — first revealed about 20 minutes into the tale — then becomes the film’s primary antagonist, and the tone of Sweetheart veers away from the standard survival story to something dramatically different. Cleverly half-revealed during a sequence where Jenn fires a flare into the air to alert a passing aircraft, the viewer catches a glimpse of something emerging from the water as the fiery glow descends towards the horizon. That “something” turns out to be a hulking, amphibious monster hellbent on devouring whatever it can before the break of day. The bipedal beast, clearly aware of the interloper in its midst, reaches land in seconds and Jen is forced to cower away till morning’s arrival.

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Sweetheart’s creature design is effective in how it never leans too far into the grotesque, which in this case would have distracted from the psychological elements of the movie as well as the subtext built into the sparse script. The first few shots skillfully conceal the towering villain, at least in part, with the ensuing “attacks” as the island nights accumulate gaining in intensity as Jennifer desperately avoids detection. Looking like something Stan Winston would have approved of, the Creature from the Black Lagoon-like beast (played by actor Andrew Crawford) becomes an outward representation of Jennifer’s renewed sense of dogged resistance, refusing to give in to the things that seek to damage her.

What Happens at the End of ‘Sweetheart’?

Shortly after the film’s midway point, two more characters from Jenn’s life arrive at a whim, blown towards shore by an unseen force. They are her boyfriend Lucas (Emory Cohen) and Mia (Hannah Mangan Lawrence), who’ve thus far survived out at sea on an inflatable raft. Embattled and weary after days and nights of paralyzing fear, the appearance of the raft bobbing lazily at a swimmable distance from shore appears at first like a mirage to Jenn, before she rushes out to greet the weakened duo. Naturally, all attempts at trying to convince her fellow survivors that the island is hostile and that it’s governed by a deadly offshore inhabitant (who resides in a deep crevasse in the ocean floor) fail — as does her own desperate attempt to flee to save herself as she’s thwarted by Lucas.

Her escape attempt follows a tense exchange between the couple wherein Lucas suddenly rears up, asserting that they are to remain on the island despite Jenn’s insistence. Serving as a vital window into the nature of their evidently strained relationship prior to the film’s events, it also provides an invaluable insight into Jenn’s bravery in the face of potentially ongoing emotional pain. She’d been made to feel like she couldn’t survive on her own, and here she is, proving herself to be more stoic and capable in such a situation than her two disbelieving companions. Of course, the creature sets foot on the island again as night draws in and promptly wreaks havoc, scuttling another escape attempt by Lucas and Jenn, rendering their raft useless. The final “showdown” is as important for its symbolic underpinnings as it is for the actual physical removal of the monstrous antagonist, and as a spectacle, it is arresting. Sweetheart’s finale is swift, brutal and all that’s required — a well-earned catharsis for our protagonist. J.D. Dillard’s film is a success on both the survival thriller and creature feature front, and like other elevated horror flicks such as the recent Talk to Me, his film balances its visceral kicks with dramatic heft as well.

Sweetheart is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

Watch on Amazon Prime