Christmas, that joyous period where you get forced to spend time with those relatives that you rather give a wide berth to. The annoying, creepy uncle with the over-familiar cuddles, the drunk and ranty aunt who really should be kept away from the sherry, and the good old standard of British life the racist grandparent who thinks everyone not born here with white skin the root of all the UK's problems.
Luckily, for most of us, we only have to deal with to deal with these people without the interference of some mysterious malignant force that traps you inside of your house, shutting off all communications with the outside world, with only a TV that displays a foreboding message
“Stay indoors and await further instructions,”
Johnny Kevorkian's and Gavin Williams deeply disturbing and taut psychological horror film Await Further Instructions When Nick (Sam Gittins) an alienated prodigal son returns for a family visit over Christmas with his girlfriend Annji (Neerja Naik) in tow, he assumes things will not go smoothly, initially his mother (Abigail Cruttenden) is welcoming and over the moon at his return, but his overbearing and stiff upper lipped father, Tony (Grant Masters), is somewhat aloof at his sons return. However, that is nothing when compared to the reaction of the Grandfather (David Bradley) an openly bigoted, and racist dinosaur who relishes at making vile comments directed at Annji. Rounding off the family group is Nick’s airhead of a pregnant sister, Kate (Holly Weston), and her spineless, sheep-like husband (Kris Sadler).
When Nick and Annji wake up on Boxing day after having a Christmas from hell the try to escape from what will only be an ever-escalating confrontation between the ignorant side of the family, but they soon discover that they are trapped by a strange impassable barricade that has hermetically sealed them all inside and cutting off all communications with the outside world. Shortly after they’re trapped, a message appears on the TV screen reading only, “Stay indoors and await further instructions.” At first, they think this is some government action to ensure their safety after an unknown catastrophe has occurred, but it soon becomes apparent as the disturbing nature of the messages begins to increase that this isn't the action of a concerned government, and the core of their family beliefs and relationships become dramatically ripped apart.
For many people, horror films represent a genre that is devoid of any cultural or intellectual merit, however to those of us who are fans of the genre we know that sometimes horror is the best mirror to hold up to a world that is becoming increasingly scary and mad. Much like the vaulted Black Mirror, Await Further Instructions , is a film that manages to be both deeply scary and uncomfortable to watch, while at the same time providing a narrative that cleverly delves into the current socio and political climate in the UK.
Gavin Williams script deftly skips between the horror of family tensions and the horror of the unknown force that is terrorising the family. William's script contains some brilliant, scathing commentary on family, the influence of patriarchal power on the thoughts and conformity of children in the home, and the need for some of us to blindly follow those that we perceive to be in control no matter how crazy and messed up their instructions are. He also provides a fascinating look at how we have devolved as a society to such a point that all-powerful gogglebox has become our new god. The script is filled with dark humourous stabs at the current climate in this country, while still being able to provide a tension-filled and terrifying character and plot arc. And while things do become a little over the top towards the end of the film, Williams keeps the events grounded, allowing the viewer to accept what happens without ever thinking "well this is becoming a little bit OTT". The viewer will also relish in spotting a couple of clever nods to other classic horror films in the final act.
In some ways Await Further Instructions is reminiscent of one of my favourite films, Cube, in as much as while the script allows for a story to be told logically with a distinct narrative from start to finish, it also allows the viewer to think for themselves, and look for the subtext without ladling it on like thick concrete. A perfect pub movie where you can spend a whole evening discussing exactly what the film was about and the what the ending really meant.
Johnny Kevorkian's direction is the perfect partner for William's script, Kevorkian tight, claustrophobic direction will, ironically, keep you glued to the screen. He makes full use of the single location and eeks every last bit out of the limited budget of the film to create an unsettling and captivating experience that is lacking in movies with a much larger budget behind them.
The small cast handle themselves with great success, David Bradley's racist grandfather is the stand out performance, the bitterness and anger at a world that has changed from the one he knew, hits you in the face with a blast of fetid hot air. Abigail Cruttenden plays the loving mother caught in the middle of a feud with a nice touch of dismayed motherhood her distress at her family breaking down is a touching and believable performance.
It is Grant Masters' delivery as the stiff upper lipped, conformist patriarch of the family that is the stand out performance of the film. Masters' brings a certain degree of humanity and sympathy to what is essentially a very unlikeable character. His struggle to do the right thing when faced with his inability to break from his conditioning of conformity and obeying those in power is a nuanced and emotionally charged delivery.
Await Further Instructions is a film that breaks free from the perceived shackles and failings that so many people feel about the genre. It is an intelligent and gripping horrific thriller with a sly satirical undercurrent that delivers on all counts. Forget Die Hard, Await Further Instructions is the best non Christmas, Christmas film.
Await Further Instructions has a limited cinema release from Friday 7 Dec 2019 as well as being available to stream from Amazon, Google Play and Itunes