There's nothing quite so captivating as watching the sausage get made, and Sweetheart is smart enough to immediately exploit that deliciously slippery fact -- at its very start we're tossed like an asteroid right onto the beach alongside our leading lady Jenn (Kiersey Clemons) following some sort of, we piece together, boat crash. Gasping and panic, dead bodies about, Jenn gets quick to work on the practicalities of survival -- we watch her take stock of her place as she walks the length of the beach, and all the items she can scavenge, making a mental list alongside her. Oh, we think, those matches will probably definitely come in handy.
This sequence represents some ace filmmaking from director J.D. Dillard, who's now two for two on that score -- his 2017 low-key superhero origin story Sleight went criminally under-valued that year, telling that story a way nobody else had up to that point. Like Sleight it shouldn't be ignored that Sweetheart offers us a lead person of color in a role we're not seeing a person of color in -- you name yourself some Final Girls (since that's what Jenn turns out to be, once Sweetheart's aquatic man-monsters start chomping) and I dare you to fill an entire hand with the ones that aren't white.
But all of that is extracurricular movie-reviewing stuff -- Sweetheart is focused on the details, the nitty gritty getting under Jenn's fingernails as she heaves one part forward on a circular sandy no place, every direction seemingly dripping with fangs. I was a little bit in awe of how fast the movie gets us in Jenn's camp -- within the first ten minutes we know she's smart and kind and ruthlessly efficient, a prime candidate for rooting-for prospects as the horrors begin to infringe upon a possible slice of paradise. When we make your deserted island playlists nobody thinks to add the screams, but Sweetheart does.
I don't know what sort of budget they had but I doubt it's even half of what got paid for Tony Stark's socks on the last Avengers film, and yet this movie builds up a whopper of a gilled fiend for our participating nightmare fuel -- I don't want to know how they did it, how much was practical effects versus CG; I stand here now on a mile of cement over soil as I type this and I plan on, for the near future, staying safe and solid up here city-side. This movie convinced me there be caterwauling monsters waiting in the surf.