Dir. Marc Schießer (2023)
A young woman wakes up in the trunk of a car and finds that her cellphone is the only tool she has for survival.
There's not a whole lot that separates the thriller genre from horror. Tense situations, made even moreso by horrible circumstances beyond the protagonist's control, combined with an ever-present danger that the audience is forced to confront along with the characters, make for exciting films. While you can't really argue that thrillers are the same as horror, the two genres share enough elements to where they are at least adjacent to each other and often target the same audiences. Thrillers are horror lite, a dip-your-toes-in exploration of scary things without going overboard into truly horrific territory. It's housewife horror, and, when handled properly, can be incredibly effective and impactful on the viewer. Enter Trunk- Locked In, a German thriller that stretches your nerves to their limits and will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.
Malina (Sina Martens) awakens in the trunk of a car, quickly realizing that she has been kidnapped shortly before she was meant to leave the country with her boyfriend Enno (Artjom Gilz). She manages to grab her phone out of a pile of clothes that her kidnapper is discarding, and it becomes her lifeline, her only connection to the world outside of her trunk. Tensions continually escalate as Maline speaks to both the police and her father, attempting to have the ransom paid or to be found before time runs out. As the driver (Poal Cairo) continues to make his way closer to where Malina is set to die, she must fight with everything she has to survive.
Reminiscent of the surprisingly-excellent Halle Berry joint The Call, Trunk- Locked In does a shockingly effective job of ratcheting up the suspense despite taking place almost entirely within the confines of a car boot. Martens does a phenomenal job as the kidnapping victim, delivering an incredibly physical performance despite her constricting location. The "twist" of the film is relatively easy to guess, but it's handled exceptionally well thanks to Martens' emotional portrayal of her character. Cairo is delightfully menacing, and at one point I honestly thought he was Costas Mandylor, which is only worth mentioning because, well, I did. The film is actually fairly gory, especially for a movie with such a bottle plot, and it's a well-told story from start to finish.
The initial title for the film was just Trunk, which is honestly a much better title. The rest of the film was so entertaining that that's just about the only gripe that I have. It's genuinely heart-pounding from beginning to end, and it's got one of the smarter protagonists in recent memory. It does a great job with barely stretching reality in ways that still remain believable, and the acting is top notch all the way around. It is still decidedly German, however, despite some of the film's dialogue being in English, and the different cultural sensitivities may not always ring true for an American audience. Nonetheless, it's an excellent and taut thriller that is well worth a watch, and I definitely recommend checking it out if you're a fan of the genre at all.
Who this movie is for: Thriller fans, Kidnapping movie lovers, Malpractice lawyers
Bottom line: Taut as hell and an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride from start to finish, Trunk- Locked In is a stellar German thriller that is well worth checking out. There's very little not to like here, especially if you're a fan of thrillers in general. The acting is on-point, the camerawork is creative and vertigo-inducing, and the implementation of the single-location scenery is handled to near perfection. This one is streaming for free on Amazon Prime, and I highly recommend you give it a look.