It’s almost impossible for British Horror to deal with class and racism now and not feel coloured by Brexit. Johnny Kevorkian’s second feature film, Await Further Instructions, doesn’t namecheck the political shambles, but it’s a film which is, incidentally or not, coloured by it and part of a wider growing Brit-Horror theme of traumatic generational divide.
Nick (Sam Gittins) returns to his family home for Christmas, after a three year absence, bringing with him his new girlfriend Anjii. After a tense reunion with Nick’s totalitarian father, dotting mother, and racist grandfather, the family find themselves trapped inside the house by mysterious black shutters. Soon, orders start appearing on the TV and the already tense atmosphere becomes a desperate fight for survival.
All that character legwork, and the tension that comes with it, dissipates by the half way mark. As Gavin Williams’ script becomes more embroiled in the survival element, it loses the parts that felt most charged. The poisonous relationship between dad and grandad is perfectly articulated as a pattern of generational abuse and trauma. Grant Masters and David Bradley are perfectly cast and easily some of the film’s best components. Nick is a kind of prodigal son welcomed home after a long absence by his dotting mother and begrudging dutiful father. There’s hints of class disorder within the family: Nick’s escape to the city and presumed uni education is at ends with his father and grandfather who see him as a “pansy”. For a lot of people it will be devastating on-point and very of-the-moment. All that stuff just falls by the wayside though.
The Twilight Zone, The Signal, ; it’s a tricksy subset of sci fi mysteries which aim high on intrigue and rarely deliver. Films like this often lose steam because the initial concept is just too good for any kind of fulfilling answer. It doesn’t help that scene-to-scene Await Further Instructions can’t quite keep up the pace. Tense scenarios simply resolve themselves after brief fade-outs. Characters seem to turn primal real quick, and the ominous threat is a bit too showy for its own good. As in, the way the threat articulates itself throughout the film doesn’t quite line up with the climax reveal. Still, as a film articulating the terror of unquestioning obedience to the state, it does pretty well.
Even though the last act goes a bit mental, there’s still fun to be had with this social experiment-style sci-fi thriller. Some surprise gore, passable thrills, and practical creature effects help keep things interesting. Cutting Bradley out early on feels like a dud move, especially when he’s a catalyst for so much of the best drama. Still, Gittins is a decent lead, Masters is undeniably imposing, and there’s enough fun to fill the runtime, it just could have been less disposable.
Dir. Johnny Kevorkian
Stars. Sam Gittins, Neerja Naik, Grant Masters, David Bradley, Holly Weston, Kris Saddler