Monday, 12 March 2012

Review (Horror Short) - Familiar (2011)


Richard Powell

Its amazing what you can accomplish in a mere twenty four minutes..

FAMILIAR, running barely longer than an episode of FAMILY GUY, manages to draw us into its main characters world completely, and bring us a fully formed, expertly realised portrait of a man on the verge of complete mental collapse; overtaken by discontent. It's an incredible achievement.

As we open, we're introduced to our protagonist, via unflinching close ups and a truly unnerving voice-over that serves as a window into his worldview. John, we soon learn, is a man who has a serious attitude problem. This guy has it all, a beautiful daughter, an attentive loving wife, a charming home and a serviceable job, but John ain't happy. Not one bit. Luckily, John has a plan..

What we're dealing with here is a disturbing psychological study of a man teetering on the very edge of the abyss, drowning in his own disappointment and  his lack of anything even resembling self worth. The guys a mess, and while his life sure as hell ain't a Rolling Stones concert, Circa 1969 , its far from the hellish nightmare poor John perceives it to be. This is AMERICAN BEAUTY meets SHIVERS. A body-horror-head-fuck that looks closely at a mid-life crisis gone pathologically wrong. Its horror, but for a short, its far more concerned with the intricacies of its characters than blood, gore and fear. That FAMILIAR manages to portray a fully rounded family portrait and provide the viewer a satisfyingly gut-wrenching, (especially during the vomit-inducing finale), experience in the time it takes to knock one out, is something that should be studied in film schools the world over.

Director/writer, Richard Powell is clearly a man in possession of great talent. His script is razor sharp, jet black funny, heartbreaking and often poetic, and he's somehow managed to make this micro-budgeted work of genius look like a million bucks, helped in no small part by a fucking flawless lead performance by Robert Nolan, as the dangerously tormented dad.

A film of such quiet, controlled restraint would fall utterly flat were its lead not up to the task, and Nolan hits every beat with quiet perfection. As almost all of the script creeps into our psyche in the form of voice-over, his role is practically mute, yet his weathered, everyman looks, and his penetrating stare invites us deep into Johns fucked up soul. The guy was born for the screen, and we should be seeing a whole lot more of him in the coming months and years. This guys amazing, comparable to the mighty Min-Sik Choi of I SAW THE DEVIL and OLDBOY fame.

As Johns completely unsuspecting wife, Charlotte. Astrida Auza is deeply touching. Again, very little dialogue, masses of depth. The central conceit that pushes John over the edge, (a revelation by Charlotte that I won't give away here), really lends to the tragedy of her character, and for any parents out there, especially those who are expecting, FAMILIAR can be a very unpleasant experience.

This is horror though, and unpleasantness is what you came for. If the central plots layered study of moral choices, hope and mental disintegration isn't enough, the blood soaked symbology of the finale will land the deciding punch. The last five minutes are a demented dive into holds barred, body-horror madness, replete with some excellent/repulsive effects work.

FAMILIAR is horror done just right. A short that spends its entire time whispering evil nothings in your ear. And a story that will follow you to into sleep, and leave troubled dreams in its wake. Nasty, merciless and unmissable.   

9 Inner Struggles out of 10


  1. Thanks Kyle. I'm thinking of you...

    1. Thanks Robert. Its great to hear from you. Keep up the brilliant work, my friend. x

  2. FAMILIAR - Screened on Opening Night in Australia's A NIGHT OF HORROR/FANTASTIC PLANET Film Festival, Friday, March 16. And we are in very fine company paired with the feature BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW which opens the festival - 'Festival runs until April 1st. Other films at this years event include The Divide, The Corridor, Exit Humanity, The theatre Bizzare, Another Earth and Fathers Day!

  3. To all, if you can make any of the upcoming dates, its really worth going. you get to see a fantastic work and later down the line, you also get bragging rights about being there when these guys careers were just kicking off. It's a no lose situation!

  4. Robert, if you have any dates coming up, please be sure to post them here, or let me know, and I'll do what I can from my end.