That’s the baffling premise of Natasha Kermani’s “Lucky”, written by Brea Grant (who also plays). What at first appears to be a typical home invasion thriller turns out to be something much stranger, much more upsetting. “Lucky” is more than its premise. “Lucky” has something to say, and Grant has thought very deeply about the topics of violence against women and trauma, as well as the gender-based assumptions about it. “Lucky” is said only from May’s confused insomniac perspective, and therefore the audience’s learning curve is the same as May’s. May is slow to understand what really going on, even though everyone around her – her husband, her assistant Edie (Yasmine Al-Bustami), her sister-in-law (Kausar Mohammed) and her editor (Leith M. Burke) – seems to know what’s going on and yet refuse to tell him.
It’s a frustrating storytelling dynamic, based on repetition, of the same scenes happening over and over again. Frustration serves a purpose, ultimately, as does repetition, although it takes a little patience to last. May goes to people for help. They all treat her like she is overreacting, but there is something else underneath their behavior. They act like they have a secret, the key to the puzzle, and they watch May flow about to make sense of it with condescending pity. Poor May, she’s the last to know what’s really going on.
When Ted suddenly disappears and May cannot reach him, she has to “go it alone”. People offer her their guest rooms, but she refuses. She stays in the house, and every night she fights with the intruder. The fights are often terrifying, gruesome and bloody, but the next morning the cycle begins again, “Groundhog Day” style or, like “Happy Death Day” of 2017, with a similar time loop. May calls the police each time, but the response is maddeningly casually.
“Lucky” indulges in all of the “tropes” of horror film, but he does so with purpose. May turns off all the lights at night, although it would be helpful to see the intruder when she arrives. She even falls asleep! When the man appears, as he always does, instead of running outside, she runs upstairs, where there is no escape. It’s as if May has never seen a horror movie! But there is a method to Grant’s madness as a screenwriter. This nightmare scenario coming to life takes on the aspect of one of those terrible dreams where you are being chased, and you try to run, but you cannot move. May is like Josef K. in Kafka’s The trial, doing her best in a confusing and threatening world, where everyone seems to have gotten a mysterious grade on “the way things are”, and she’s been left out “the list”.