Firstborn, the debut feature from Nirpal Bhogal, is a surprisingly effective hark-back to supernatural domestic thrillers of the 70s. Charlie (Antonia Thomas) and James (Luke Norris) are a young couple with a new born baby which appears to attract supernatural attention. As time goes by and baby Thea grows up, the family find themselves increasingly at the whim of violent supernatural forces.
Firstborn could have been dismissible but Bhogal milks the opportunity to make a horror that’s actually about something, as opposed to a string of lame spooks and scares. Cyclical violence and systemised abuse top the list since there’s rampant uneasiness around the numerous rules Thea must live by to keep herself safe. Many of the scares also rely on fundamentally disturbing the family environment and bringing underlying anxieties to the surface. One particular scene sees Charlie scream at the sobbing infant, only to find her words emblazoned across the child’s bedroom door, it’s a stark reveal and one that highlights Firstborn’s natural discomfort with parents behind closed doors.
Veteran performer Jonathan Hyde is a great addition to the cast and gives an endearing turn as James’ occultist father, highlighting a side of the film that’s nostalgically classic in the Hammer sense. In the end over-complication bogs the film down, but it’s a relatively good, enjoyable story.
Dir. Nirpal Bhogal
Stars: Antonia Thomas, Jonathan Hyde, Luke Norris, Eileen Davies