Jan 20, 2023
Richard Anthony Dunford
Richard Anthony Dunford
Sarah Alexandra Marks, Eric Roberts, Dani Thompson
NEW TO UK FILM REVIEW
Critics Chris Olson and Brian Penn host UK Film Club - a new film podcast covering all film types. From blockbusters to old favourites and even indie & shorts.
From director Richard Anthony Dunford comes Minacious, an inventive single-location horror/thriller centred on the premise that not every crazy customer complainant keeps their grievances confined to a phone call…
Izzy (Sarah Alexandra Marks) retreats to her uncle’s remote luxury residence – to give herself a more tolerable WFH experience whilst he is away. Enjoying the solitude, she spends her nights working in the call centre for a bank and putting up with her overbearing boss Saffron (Dani Thompson). But when irate caller Caleb (Eric Roberts) develops a fixation with her, Izzy’s isolation becomes a nightmare as she discovers she has a stalker – with a violent past.
Minacious is an impressively engaging stalker-horror that makes the most of a straightforward but interesting story foundation, before running out of steam in a final act that resorts to a cookie-cutter slasher structure. Clearly inspired by the likes of Locke (the shining example of single-location features) and Phone Booth, the film takes place almost entirely in Izzy’s home, and is told in large part over phone calls made by Izzy to her tormenter, customers and colleagues. Clever editing, a script and story that expertly builds tension, and production ingenuities maintain the viewer’s engagement throughout – and mean that what could have easily been a tiresome gimmick instead allows the story to develop consistently and authentically.
The story invokes themes such as misogyny, poor treatment of service employees, and an increasing impatience in a world that expects every problem to be solved instantly. The film doesn’t really offer any original critiques of these matters, but uses them instead to background the fear and tension it seeks to create.
Sarah Alexandra Marks comfortably shoulders a considerable task as the sole actor tasked with giving a full performance throughout the film. She is a charming, empathetic presence on screen – and audiences will instantly be drawn to Izzy as the protagonist as she is drawn deeper and deeper into danger. Eric Roberts – present only through the end of a telephone – acts as an intimidating, bullying and unpredictable evil whose menace dominates the film – and is as ominous to the viewer as it is to Izzy.
The dialogue is weak in parts, with certain exchanges petering out and ending with eye-rolling cliches that negate from the film’s tension. The concluding quarter of the film, in which the original and successful storytelling approach is abandoned in favour of a well-worn slasher chase that ends unsatisfyingly predictably, is also unworthy of the film’s prior creativity – it’s a shame the writer/director was not able to conclude the story in a way that took advantage of the established structure.
But despite a disappointing end, Minacious is an impressive and memorable film that builds a fine story out of minimal parts. It’s evidence that films don’t always need scope and spectacle to leave an impression, and that a smartly-told story and comprehensive, believable characters will allow any story to prosper.