Starring the very impressive Robert Nolan and directed by the talented Richard Powell, Worm was a massive hit here at Hickey's House of Horrors.
Now as Fatal Pictures' final short, Heir, draws closer, it seems the perfect time to take a peak at their previous short, Familiar.
Once again pairing Nolan and Powell, can this possibly hope to hit the same heights?
Dir: Richard Powell
Starring: Robert Nolan, Astrida Auza, Cathryn Hostick
SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here, as it is only a short film, but read on at your own risk.
John Dodd (Nolan) is a man unhappy with his lot in life. An unfulfilling marriage to his wife Charlotte (Auza) and a disappointing relationship with his daughter Jordan (Hostick), he is secretly counting down the days until he will be able to flee them both and set off for a new beginning and freedom.
However, when Charlotte breaks some unexpected news John feels trapped once more. A nagging voice inside his head tells him to take desperate and terrible measures to escape.
But is this voice really just John's subconscious? Or is there something even more horrific taking place?
THE BEST BITS (minor spoiler warning): This worked once before, so I’m sure it’ll work again:
Every bit as brilliant as he was in Worm, Nolan once again brings a frustrated, pathetic but very dangerous character to life. Like Worm, the bulk of the lines come from Dodd’s internal monologue, delivered with finesse by Nolan.
I raved at length about Nolan's performance in that previous review, so I’ll cut it short here. Suffice it to say that he was excellent then and he’s every bit as incredible this time round.
One of the few flaws I had with Worm was that while Geoffrey was brilliantly realised, the other characters had a little less depth. Thankfully that is something that has been addressed in Familiar. Dodd’s wife Charlotte is given plenty to do, going through some serious emotional turmoil. A character that starts as an annoyance to John soon gains the audience’s sympathy and Auza does a sterling job in the role. She more than holds her own opposite NOLAN. Hostick has less screentime but she does have a couple of key scenes and she is great in each of them.
Much like Worm, this is a marvellous slow-burn effort. The story starts as the tale of a desperately unhappy man, but as the horrors unfold onscreen we learn that there is much more to this short than we first realised.
Completely shocking body horror and some brilliant visual effects occur later on as the short builds to a truly twisted and unforgettable climax. This is an excellent and well-crafted tale.
Credit must also go to Powell for his assured direction. I thought his work in Worm was great, I’m prepared to say I thought it was even better in Familiar. That is strong praise indeed. The screen positively drips with an atmosphere of growing tension, the angles and framing suggesting the very worst.
Finally the story is one of the most grim and disturbing I've seen in some time. It goes to some extremely dark places, so be warned. Following in the same thematic footsteps of its predecessor (albeit via a very different conclusion) it covers the terrifying depths of the evil that dwells within men. If you want a twisted descent into the nightmarish, Familiar is the short for you.
THE WORST BITS (minor spoilers follow): If it was hard to find fault with Worm, it is even harder to criticise Familiar as nearly all of its predecessor's flaws have been addressed.
I suppose some people may find its more extreme moments a bit much. More sensitive viewers may be upset by the worst atrocities of the story including SPOILERS********** a poisoning induced miscarriage and bloody self-mutilation in the shocking final scenes SPOILERS END********** I’d argue that whole point of horror is to shock, to disturb and to hold up a mirror to the fears of society. In order to do so it needs to go to some pretty upsetting places at times.
I do wish that the film had an extended running time. I think that the rather abrupt shift towards that horrific finale could have done with a little more room to breathe, perhaps via a couple more clues on the way? Once again, I think it says a great deal about the quality of Familiar that the only real problem I had with it was wanting more!
VERDICT: Fatal Pictures have done it again — Familiar is a legitimate genre masterpiece. Worm was one of the very best shorts I’ve ever had the pleasure to review and I actually thought Familiar was even better.
Featuring another showstopper of a performance from Robert Nolan (who is now officially on the Hickey's House of Horrors 'Cool List') and excellent guidance by Powell, this is not just a short that I recommend you see, I DEMAND that you see it as soon as possible.
I was excited by Heir before, now I absolutely cannot wait to see what Powell and his producing partner Zachary Green have in store for us!
In the meantime, check out the movie’s Facebook page. Be sure to Like it while you’re there too, these guys definitely deserve our support!
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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.