★★★★ Directed by: Johnny Kevorkian Starring: Sam Gittins, Grant Masters, David Bradley, Holly Weston, Abigail Cruttenden, Neerja Naik, Kris Saddler Grimmfest Film Festival Review by: Darren Tilby
An intelligent, thorough and frighteningly true to life examination of post-Brexit British society, and the media’s influence in our increasingly paranoid and divided nation: Await Further Instructions simmers gently; slowly and skilfully building tension until exploding in spectacular fashion and ending with a warning for us all — you can’t escape the influence of TV.
Nick should never have returned. He knew it wasn’t a good idea. But after years of being estranged from his family, Nick arrives home with his Asian girlfriend, Annji, for the family Christmas get together. It doesn’t get off to a great start, and after receiving a flood of abuse and outright hostility – mostly from Nick’s overbearing father, chav sister and racist grandad – the couple decide to pack up their things and leave early the next morning. Their plans rapidly fall apart when they discover the house has been encased in a mysterious black substance; trapping them inside. With only the TV for guidance, the family becomes more and more desperate and dependent on its increasingly concerning advice.
An absolutely stellar cast underlies this character-driven sci-fi horror masterpiece: Sam Gittins and Neerja Naik give brilliant central performances as boyfriend and girlfriend, Nick and Annji, and Holly Weston is fantastically repugnant and two-faced as Nick’s pregnant sister, Kate. Kris Saddler is surprisingly sympathetic as the beefed-up but gutless (and not very bright) husband of Kate, Scott; while Abigail Cruttenden’s long-suffering and submissive mother of the family, Beth, explodes in spectacular fashion near the end!
The performances of the film, however, must go to David Bradley and Grant Masters, whose creepily-malevolent and unhinged performances dominate the screen from start to finish.
The mundanity of the suburban family home plays well against the out-of-this-world sci-fi aesthetics that come into play towards the beginning of the second act; gifting the film a Lovecraftian quality. A dull blue light infests the house, which is now devoid of any natural light source, and the eerie green emanating from the TV as it issues more demands speaks louder than any dialogue ever could; only adding to the film's otherworldly feel.
There's a very definite message here that believing everything you see on TV generally isn't a good idea. But if you look deeper than that, the film acts as an examination of an increasingly insular and paranoid nation, and attempts to pick apart the cause; namely, the fear-inducing right-wing media. The family home acts as a metaphor of the UK as a whole: we wall ourselves in, keeping to ourselves and carrying on as if nothing is happening, whilst all around us the world crumbles.
Await Further Instructions was the most wonderful surprise of my first night at Grimmfest Film Festival, and although the ending left me feeling slightly deflated, it came with an important and clearly stated message. A sci-fi horror masterpiece that's sure to become a hit.