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Two siblings take horrific measures in order to care for their ailing little brother. But as guilt and desires to break from a life of solitude grow, they’ll teeter on the edge of their family’s destruction. Written and directed by Jonathan Cuartas, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a heavy family drama that does something unique with vampiric mythology, striking a cord with its viewer in an unexpected way.

Cooped up in their remote family home, Dwight (Patrick Fugit) and his sister Jessie (Ingrid Sophie Schram) do just about anything to keep their brother Thomas alive. Frail and near-death, Thomas (Owen Campbell) relies on blood to sustain his body. In order to maintain a stock of fresh blood, Dwight drives around, picking up lonely souls, before killing and draining them.

While Jessie is hellbent on keeping the family together, this life begins to weigh heavy on Dwight; the acts becoming more and more difficult to see through. As Thomas also dreams of connecting with the world outside, their small bubble begins to burst, and the dangers of their system become very real.

It’s always impressive when a film is capable of taking a very popular subgrene, with such heavy mythology, to a new level. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is very different from what the usual vampire-horror film offers. Gone are the usual trappings of a bloodsucking tale, and instead a delicate story of familial heartache.

While there are some recognizable elements sprinkled throughout, the film really focuses on heartbreaking — and in this case, horrifying — depths people will go to, in order to save family. I viewed it as a story about someone living with a terminal illness. How they feel immense emptiness, while those closest to them are the ones pushing remedies and hopefulness, even to their displeasure.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is such a rich, indie film. It takes away the expected horror notes and trades it for emotionally driven tension. It’s a simple, yet effective vampire story not steeped in heavy lore, but with themes of grief, losing loved ones, and holding on too long. And the simplicity in Cuartas’ vision allows this vampy film to connect to viewers on a real level.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To hits theaters and On Demand on June 25th


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