Monday, 15 December 2014

Briefly - Familiar

Being led to believe by a voice in his head that life has passed him by, a middle-aged family man poses a danger to others and then to himself in writer-director Richard Powell's 2012 short film Familiar.

Robert Nolan
John Dodd (Robert Nolan) seems to be guided by an inner monologue convincing him that better times are just around the corner. His daughter (Cathryn Hostick) will soon be off to college, leading to the sinister narrator within John's frame to concoct an escape plan to take the fellow away from his wife Charlotte (Astrida Auza). Problem is, the lady of the house drops the bombshell that she is with child.

John is prompted by the sinister sermons going on between his ears to resort to some chemical weapons in the battle against Charlotte, first in terms of addressing her pregnant state and then by taking things even further. The one thing the evil side doesn't count on, however, is the "real" John beginning to question his own actions and stage an insurgence against that power which is trying to command him. It's at this point where the film truly does a flip from psychological thriller to body horror. If you've had a longing for the early works of Cronenberg, you'll be somewhat taken down memory lane by what's in here.

Familiar does have notable strengths going for it. While shot on an obviously low budget, the production values are pretty strong (with one unfortunate exception - see below). The storyline is intriguing and the pacing appropriate. The switch of the John character from unlikable menace to sympathetic victim comes about smoothly and believably. There are some genuinely creepy gore moments that deliver an impact towards the end of the flick. And, ultimately, the film belongs to Robert Nolan, who continues to display amazing gifts worthy of greater attention.

Criticisms? One is the running time - shorts have an important place on a cinematic landscape that is obviously biased towards features, but at 24 minutes this tale just seems too abrupt and more like a demo real for a longer, even richer examination. And while "the demon within" special effect at the end is genuinely cool and awesome, some of the earlier body manipulations have too much of a Halloween-via-dollar store quality to them to be taken with anything close to seriousness.

Defiantly worth checking out, Familiar serves as another example of how powerful an actor Nolan is and also prompts excitement as to where Powell and his Fatal Pictures producing partner Zach Green are headed next.

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