3 ½ stars
Let’s set the stage before you start watching Trunk: Locked In, which is now playing on Amazon Prime.
Turn out all the lights. Sit as close to the screen as possible. Turn the volume up; if you can use headphones, do so. In other words, get as close to the theatrical experience as possible before hitting the play button. Now, surrender to the story. And put on gloves, too, if you want to have fingernails left by the movie’s end.
Written, edited, and directed by Marc Schießer, the story of Trunk: Locked In is deceptively simple. A young woman named Malina (Sina Martens) wakes up in the trunk of a car with no idea how she got there. Before Malina can even sit up enough to look around and get her bearings, a man – her captor? – walks up and slams down the lid, leaving her in the dark.
Malina spends the next increasingly tense 90 minutes of the movie figuring out what happened to her. How did she get in the trunk? Where is her fiance (and why is his knitted cap beside her)? Where is she headed? Why won’t her legs move? And where is all that blood coming from?
To his credit, Schießer does a masterful job of taking the audience along for the ride, letting viewers discover the answers to all Malina’s questions in perfect lockstep with his protagonist. Trunk: Locked In is not the kind of movie where your mind runs ahead to try and figure things out. The style and substance that Schießer puts on the screen are too intense to let you off the hook. If you could measure your breathing while watching, chances are it would be in perfect synch with Malinda’s. Lord knows you’ll want to scream like her when you find out where that blood is coming from.
Although there are a few peripheral characters, Trunk: Locked In is a one-woman show, and Martens delivers a tour de force performance. She not only has a talent for vividly conveying the fear, pain, and anxiety that Malina goes through but also shows a subtlety underneath it all, particularly as she gets closer and closer to figuring it all out, which makes Malinda more than a terrified victim of a horrible crime.
When you go back to watch Trunk: Locked In a second time (and you will), pay close attention to the precise ways that cinematographers Daniel Ernst and Tui Lohf work with Schießer to capture Malinda’s claustrophobic world on celluloid. Filming a single character effectively in such a confined space requires massive planning, but the movie magic in Trunk: Locked In is that you never feel manipulated, only terribly confined. Even the moment when Malinda opens a window into the outside world, which should be a relief to both her and the audience, is, instead, just another way for the director, his cast, and his crew to ratchet up the terror.