My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To
My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To tells a darkly intimate tale. In their decrepit suburban house, siblings Dwight (Patrick Fugit) and Jessie (Ingrid Sophie Schram) live with their young brother, Thomas (Owen Campbell), who is ailed by a mysterious illness. The only thing that will aid him is a particularly morbid medicine – fresh blood cut from living victims – and it’s the reluctant Dwight’s job to supply it, under the insistence of his commanding sister. But the grisly pressures of caring for Thomas naturally begin to take a toll on Dwight, and his desire to abandon his brotherly duties drives an irreversible wedge into his oddball family.
Unlike its extraneously long title, this story from writer/director Jonathan Cuartas is simple, small-scale and self-contained – well resembling a crafted stage play. The three central characters inhabit one cramped location (accentuated by a tight 4:3 aspect ratio); while the mood is sombre, the exposition is sparse and it’s all over in a swift 90 minutes. For an atmospheric and tense horror movie, these simplicities are major attributes, and help the overall narrative, which is always morbidly effective and mostly original. A major superficial plus (that most horror films shockingly miss) is the lifelike quality of the blood, which looks so thick and dark that it could be mistaken for the real thing.
However it’s a last-minute twist that threatens to undo most of the movie’s positives. Throughout, it strives to be a realistic spin on the vampire concept, until the finale undermines that by implying a paranormal element. From a lack of explanation, the two ideas of natural and supernatural are never properly fused, and it causes some nagging questions about the film’s universe and its specific version of the vampire. The director’s desire for a quiet and self-contained story abruptly switches from being a plus to a detriment, as he denies us some much-needed exposition regarding the unique vampire mythology. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is almost good enough to transcend its flaws, but while walking out of the theatre, viewers will just be thirsty for answers.
My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is released in select cinemas and digitally on demand on 25th June 2021.
Watch the trailer for My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To here: