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.
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