What Keeps You Alive

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What Keeps You Alive
What Keeps You Alive.png
Film poster
Directed by Colin Minihan
Written by Colin Minihan
Release date
  • March 10, 2018 (2018-03-10) (South by Southwest)
  • August 24, 2018 (2018-08-24) (United States)
Running time
98 minutes
Language English

What Keeps You Alive is a 2018 Canadian thriller film written and directed by Colin Minihan. It stars Hannah Emily Anderson and Brittany Allen.


Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) takes her wife Jules (Brittany Allen) to a remote cabin to celebrate their first anniversary. Jules, however, becomes suspicious when Jackie's former childhood friend, Sarah, visits and addresses Jackie as "Megan". Jackie explains that she changed her name by choice but Jules isn't satisfied and rows across the lake to the house where Sarah and her husband Daniel live. Sarah explains that Jenny, a girl who was friends with both her and Jackie, accidentally drowned in the lake when they were young and expresses surprise that Jackie/Megan has never mentioned this. Returning home, Jules takes a walk with Jackie who claims that she'd failed to mention Jenny because she believed the accident was her fault. Seemingly satisfied by this explanation, Jules embraces her wife who, moments later, suddenly shoves her off the edge of a steep outcropping, landing heavily on the ground below.

Jackie returns to the cabin, practising 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 and, jumping into a boat, makes it halfway across the lake before Jackie catches up to her. Daniel sees the pair and, despite Jackie's threats, Jules arranges for them to come for dinner later that evening, rather than the day after as planned.

Taking Jules back home, Jackie reveals that she never loved her wife and instead intends to kill her to cash in on her life insurance policy. It's also heavily implied that Jackie was responsible for Jenny's death. Sarah is suspicious of Jackie but goes to their house for dinner, with Daniel. Having threatened to kill both Sarah and Daniel, Jackie forces Jules to pretend everything is normal but she catches Jules trying to warn Sarah. Jackie kills both Sarah and Daniel, forcing Jules to help her dispose of the bodies. Jules peeks behind the stuffed head of a bear, the animal Jackie supposedly killed as a child, and discovers a box containing necklaces that Jackie has given to her previous wives, whom she all killed.

Jules manages to escape by stabbing Jackie with a tranquilizer dart but, fleeing in a car, decides to come back to confront Jackie, waiting for her at the cabin. The two fight and Jackie eventually gets the upper hand, whereupon she drags Jules outside and throws her over the same cliff-edge from earlier. She returns to the cabin and, confident that Jules is now dead, calls the police to report the "accident". Jackie (who is a diabetic), injects herself with insulin but she starts to feel woozy. She discovers that, as a last desperate gambit, Jules spiked her insulin with hydrogen peroxide. The peroxide causes blood clots in her system and, wandering outside, Jackie collapses and presumably dies of a stroke.

Jules lies, eyes wide open, at the bottom of the cliff. As the film fades to black, a sharp intake of breath is heard, suggesting Jules may still be alive.



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 80% based on 40 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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