January 26, 2012

Filthy Review - Familiar

Familiar (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

Last year I had the pleasure of watching and reviewing director Richard Powell’s short film Worm. The movie introduced us to Geoffrey Dodd (Robert Nolan), who was a seething mass of hatred, and he chilled me to the bone. To the rest of the world he was a pleasant school teacher, but underneath the surface lurked a much darker and scarier character. Now, in Fatal Pictures and Powell’s follow-up movie Familiar, we get to meet Geoffrey’s equally unhinged brother, John.

John Dodd, played once again by Nolan, is your everyday family man. He has his doting wife and, soon to be heading off to college, daughter. His life is routine, an endless routine, every day blurs into the next and this is taking its toll on John. Of course on the surface nothing is out of the ordinary and he plays the role of loving husband and father as best he can. This is a Dodd though, and nothing is ever as it seems with the Dodd’s.

Many parallels can be drawn between both Worm and Familiar, in fact I think it would be safe to say that the two films are very much companion pieces to each other. You don’t need to have seen one to enjoy the other as they do work perfectly as stand-alone pictures. Put the two together though and you get an incredibly dark picture painted for you.

Familiar plays out the meat of its story through John’s bile-filled narration, which flows throughout the movie. Sometimes in movies narration serves purely as filler in order to move the story along, here though it is integral to the story and movie itself. We can to know the real John, his real feelings and what his plans are. That is one of Familiar’s many strengths, the coupling of Robert Nolan’s on screen performance with his narration make for chilling viewing. If I praised Nolan for his performance in Worm I was probably doing him a disservice, as here in Familiar he takes it to another level. The man can convey so much purely from his facial expressions, so that once you add the dialogue his performance becomes all that more terrifying. He really does deliver a true masterclass in horror.

Now, a performance alone does not a good movie make. Fatal Pictures though seem to have amassed a crew that no their stuff, and how to execute it. Writer/Director Powell has delivered a wonderfully paced horror movie that presses all the right buttons. He has managed to combine the cerebral and visceral both to incredible effect. The movie starts off by slowly getting under your skin before battering you with some really uncomfortable, and effective, special effects scenes. Add on to this the fact that it looks incredible with both the cinematography and editing being excellent.

In 23 minutes Familiar manages to pack in a far more effective horror film than most films manage in three times the running time. It asks questions of the viewer, hell, it asks questions that most viewers are too scared to ask. It puts you squarely in John’s shoes and demands you come up with the answers.

Familiar is a hell of a movie. It’s scary, violent and bloody, but not always in the way you might expect it to be. In a long line of exceptional short movies that I have seen I would not hesitate to put this near the very top.

For more about Familiar and Fatal Pictures check out their Official Site and the movie's Facebook page. 

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