What Keeps You Alive

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What Keeps You Alive
What Keeps You Alive.png
Film poster
Directed byColin Minihan
Produced by
  • Kurtis David Harder
  • Chris Ball
  • Ben Knechtel
Written byColin Minihan
Release date
  • March 10, 2018 (2018-03-10) (South by Southwest)
  • August 24, 2018 (2018-08-24) (United States)
Running time
98 minutes

What Keeps You Alive is a 2018 Canadian thriller film written and directed by Colin Minihan. It stars Hannah Emily Anderson and Brittany Allen and follows a young woman fighting for her life as her wife’s murderous intentions become evident.


Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) takes her wife Jules (Brittany Allen) to a remote cabin to celebrate their first anniversary. Jules becomes suspicious when Jackie's childhood friend, Sarah (Martha MacIsaac), visits and addresses Jackie as "Megan". Jackie explains that she changed her name by choice but Jules isn't satisfied and visits Sarah and her husband Daniel (Joey Klein). Sarah explains that Jenny, a girl who was friends with her and Jackie, accidentally drowned in the lake when they were young and expresses surprise that Jackie never mentioned this. Jackie later claims that she failed to mention Jenny because she believed the accident was her fault. Jules embraces her wife, consoling her. Moments later, while admiring the view of the wilderness, Jackie shoves Jules off the edge of a cliff.

Jackie returns to the cabin, practicing the tearful phone call she's going to make to the police, reporting her death. But Jules, while seriously hurt, is still alive. When Jackie discovers her wife isn't dead, she searches the forest for her, sobbing and begging Jules for forgiveness. Jules is about to go to her when Jackie, unaware she's being watched, reveals her concern is an act. Jules flees, makes it to the house, and tends to her injuries. She then makes it halfway across the lake on a boat before Jackie catches up to her. Daniel sees the pair and, despite Jackie's threats, Jules arranges for them to come for dinner that evening.

Jackie reveals that she never loved Jules and intends to kill her to cash in on her life insurance policy. It's also implied that Jackie was responsible for Jenny's death. Sarah is suspicious of Jackie. Having threatened to kill both Sarah and Daniel, Jackie forces Jules to pretend everything is normal but catches Jules trying to get help from Sarah. She slits Daniel’s throat outside, chases Sarah upstairs and fatally stabs her numerous times. Jackie then forces Jules to help her dispose of the bodies. Jules peeks behind the stuffed head of a bear that Jackie supposedly killed as a child, and discovers a box containing necklaces that Jackie had given to her previous wives, all of whom she killed.

Jackie drives Jules back to the cliffs edge where she intends to push her wife off again, but Jules manages to escape by stabbing her with a tranquilizer dart. Jules flees in the car, but returns to confront Jackie. The two fight and Jackie eventually gets the upper hand, knocking her out, and finally throwing her over the same cliff from earlier. Confident that Jules is now dead, she calls the police. Jackie (who is diabetic), injects herself with insulin but starts to feel woozy. She discovers through a video Jules had made prior to their confrontation that she spiked her insulin with hydrogen peroxide. The peroxide causes blood clots in Jackie’s system, and after wandering in the woods, she collapses and dies of a stroke.

Back at the bottom of the cliff, Jules lies, eyes wide open, presumably dead. As the film rolls over a sea of trees, a sharp intake of breath is heard, suggesting Jules survived the second fall.



In the early stages of the film's development, the main characters were a husband and wife (rather than a same-sex couple).[1]

Filming took place in Muskoka, Ontario.[2]

Allen composed the film's score, earning her first such credit.[3]


What Keeps You Alive had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival on March 10, 2018.[4] Since then, the film has also screened at Inside Out, the Sydney Film Festival, Cinepocalypse, and Popcorn Frights, as well as other festivals.[5][6][7][8]

IFC Midnight acquired the film for distribution in the United States.[9] The film opened in Los Angeles and New York on August 24, 2018. It became available through video on demand the same day.[10]


On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 81% based on 43 reviews, with an average rating of 6.7/10.[11] Metacritic gives the film a weighted average rating of 66 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[12]


  1. ^ Grobar, Matt (12 March 2018). "Colin Minihan Conjures Up Terrifying, Psychopathic Female Character With 'What Keeps You Alive'". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  2. ^ Wheeler, Brad. "How an actor-director couple spent their summer vacation: Filming a thriller". The Globe and Mail.
  3. ^ Crucchiola, Jordan (29 June 2018). "Five Film Composers On How To Sound Design Your Fear". Vulture. New York Media. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  4. ^ Nulf, Jenny (9 March 2018). "SXSW Survival Thriller Asks What Keeps You Alive?". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  5. ^ Wilner, Norman (4 May 2018). "Inside Out announces 2018 lineup". NOW. NOW Communications. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  6. ^ Singh, Chris (16 May 2018). "Sydney Film Festival reveals seven sinister films for their "Freak Me Out" program". The Iris. Heath Media. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  7. ^ Barkan, Jonathan (17 May 2018). "Cinepocalypse 2018: Full Slate of Films Unveiled Including Nine World Premieres!". Dread Central. Dread Central Media. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  8. ^ Miska, Brad (20 June 2018). "Popcorn Frights Brings 'Anna and the Apocalypse' and 'Puppet Master' to Florida Film Festival". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  9. ^ Vlessing, Etan (17 April 2018). "IFC Midnight Picks Up SXSW Thriller 'What Keeps You Alive'". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  10. ^ Crucchiola, Jordan (24 July 2018). "The Killer Is Already in the House in the What Keeps You Alive Trailer". Vulture. New York Media. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  11. ^ "What Keeps You Alive (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  12. ^ "What Keeps You Alive Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2 October 2018.

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