In Cinemas and VoD, Fri 7 Dec 2018
Johnny Kevorkian’s low budget British horror/sci-fi begins with an overhead shot of a car driving up a motorway. It’s a similar shot to the beginning of The Shining which features the occupants of a car slowly heading to their doom. While the Torrance family face their own specific nightmares, the two passengers in this car are driving towards a much more terrifying situation; going home to see the family at Christmas.
Nick (Sam Gittens) is taking his Indian girlfriend Annji (Neerja Naik) to meet his decidedly middle class English family for the first time. His sullen demeanour suggests this won’t be a particularly pleasant experience for anyone. Unfortunately, he’s right as like Annji we are introduced to his family of broad caricatures and clichés. After a painful evening with his racist granddad, stern father and ditzy sister, Nick and Annji decide to make a hasty exit the next morning. However, upon awaking they are surprised to discover that the doors and windows are blocked by a strange metallic surface. The only clue to this unnatural turn of events is a message on the TV saying, ‘Stay Indoors and Await Further Instructions.’
It’s a strong set up, one which is unfortunately squandered by some ropey dialogue and weak acting. It’s a pity, as the film plays with strong themes as the characters gradually start to fall apart in this pressure cooker environment. The father of the house follows the increasingly absurd instructions to the letter, believing the messages are coming from the government after a state of emergency or possible terror attack, leading to suspicion and outright hostility towards Annji. This blind faith of those in power and his incessant bullying of the family lets the film dabble in hot button topics such as fake news and toxic masculinity. The ridiculous lengths that the family are willing to go to because a faceless, but seemingly in charge power is telling them to provides a strong indictment of the way in which people can be duped into doing whatever they are told.
Interesting themes aside, it is a bit of a slog watching undeveloped characters bickering and generally being horrible to each other. The main characters of Nick and Annji are a particularly bland pair, especially Nick who spends the entire film sulking and being generally useless. Thankfully, David Bradley adds some Walder Frey-esque menace as the vile granddad, but he is a bit underused.
By the time the sub Cronenbergian body horror of the finale judders into view with some surprisingly creepy low budget stop motion effects, it is hard to care about the fates of these terrible people. It is more entertaining than watching a family argue about Brexit but not by much.