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    5 Ways This Thanksgiving Drama Looks And Feels Like A Horror Movie

    The tense, terrific debut Krisha is no Home for the Holidays.

    Like most movies set at Thanksgiving, Trey Edward Shults's directorial debut Krisha is about a dysfunctional family gathering to eat and air out past grievances over the holiday. Unlike most movies set at Thanksgiving, Krisha, which is now playing in limited release, is suffused with dread from the moment its main character — an addict who is trying hard to hold on to her sobriety — shows up at the door. It's the rare drama with all the sickening suspense of a horror movie, sustained by an exceptional lead performance and a director who puts us in the head of a woman who desperately wants to hold things together for one evening. Here's a look at some of the ways Krisha melds genres.

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    3. The camera stalks Krisha through the house. The house, spacious and suburban, is the only location in which Krisha takes place, over one unbearably claustrophobic day. Everything about the filmmaking reflects its main character's turbulent interior. Krisha is so twitchy that someone grabbing Tupperware from nearby plays like a jump scare. The sound of a blender and the shouts emitting from family members watching a ball game on TV blare like alarms, like chaos threatening the cool Krisha insists she's embraced. The bickering of a couple and some good-natured arm wrestling are cut together to feel like the start of a fight that never happens.

    The movie creates a sense of agitated anxiety to match Krisha's own. She yearns so badly for things to go smoothly that she basically wills disaster into existence. And the camerawork from cinematographer Drew Daniels is relentless, hunting her down like the doom she suspects is inevitable, tracking down dark hallways and traveling low against the ground like a restless animal, closing in on her like the eyes she imagines are always on her. In the conversation she has with Trey (played by Shults himself), above, the camera slowly closes in on her as she tries to create a bond with him; she seriously miscalculates, and she's left alone in the frame, devastated.

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    4. Everyone's smiling too carefully. Long before Krisha's complicated history with her family is brought to light, there's clear tension in each calculated display of enthusiasm. Everyone at the house is brightly cheerful in welcoming her, like a crowd greeting someone who's just awoken from a years-long coma (though they all seem to hold their breath when Trey walks in). Krisha's sister Robyn (Robyn Fairchild) even trusts her to be in charge of cooking the turkey, at Krisha's request; and then when Krisha becomes frazzled at the sight of the giant bird, Robyn reminds her, “You wanted to do it," more an offer to let her off the hook than taking her to task.

    Krisha arrives toting all sorts of baggage that everyone except for Doyle (Bill Wise) ignores. And it's Doyle, Krisha's caustic brother-in-law, who punctures the pretense in a conversation that slides slowly from friendly joshing to brutal accusations. It's Doyle who asks where she has been all these years, prodding at her defensive new-age speak, demanding she account for herself. "You are heartbreak incarnate, lady — you are a leaver," he spits, and while it's not the thing that pushes Krisha over the edge, it's more evidence of the darkness lurking below the fragile normalcy everyone else is working to maintain.