Directed by Adam Levins from a screenplay by Simon Fantauzzo (who co-wrote the original story with William Borthwick) “Estranged” features some of the best of British in this Gothic horror returned to the genre’s roots. James Cosmos, Craig Conway, Nora-Jane Noone, Eileen Nicholas, James Lance and Amy Manson star in this dark, twisted and oddly intimate horror film.
Starting in Brazil; January (Manson) and her boyfriend Callum (Simon Quarterman) are riding a motor scooter in Rio and get into an accident. She ends up in a wheelchair suffering from amnesia. With nowhere else to go, January and Callum go to her home.
The crippled woman left six years previously and is apparently estranged from her family. Once the couple arrive things get strange rather quickly. The rundown mansion has moldy walls in the bathroom and the house is falling apart. Yet the family can afford to retain a butler.
January can remember nothing about her childhood and her father Albert (Cosmos) dislikes Callum. One day her boyfriend disappears and January’s life takes a a severe downswing. At first her mum Marilyn (Nicholas), sister Katherine (Noone) and brother Lawrence (Lance) continue to act like her family.
Later, a guilt stricken Thomas (Conway) reveals the truth to January who then tries to escape. She is made a prisoner in her own home and her life becomes a living hell.
Levins makes “Estranged” more than just intimate. The film is claustrophobic and cloying. Manson’s character is run through the wringer. As the story progresses her trials continue to get worse and she discovers that what she has been told is not true.
Conway is brilliant as the servant who has obviously been beaten into submission by Albert. Cosmos, as the bullish patriarch, is massive and powerful looking and acts like an alpha male on steroids.
The film’s pace is languid to the point of standing still in places but it is necessary. It makes January’s predicament not only disturbing but frustrating as well. This oddball family, so determined to control her every move are strange and annoying. Gradually the theme bypasses strange and enters firmly into the world of the weirdly scary.
As events slowly play out the viewer guesses at what must really be going on in this quirky country estate where everyone seems to be a more disturbing version of either the Addams family or criminally insane.
When the truth is finally revealed things are worse than imagined and the ending is fitting, if not a little unsatisfying. In a nutshell, this film allows its stars to shine. Cosmos is scary as hell and Conway plays against type to be the most sympathetic character in the film.
Noone is at turns disturbing and childlike while Lance is just creepy full stop. Eileen Nicholas is also spot on as the doting mother who has definitely seen better days. Her Marilyn is spacey and disconnected to everything going on around her.
Manson goes through hell in this film and it is all too easy to imagine the actress being covered in bruises for some time after shooting the feature.
The lighting and camera work combine to make the film look dark and claustrophobic. “Estranged” is a cracking horror film that, while slow, does hit all the right marks and delivers in the end. A full four stars for this one, missing the fifth as the pace really is a tad too slow at times. Streaming on Netflix at the moment in the US but not easily found due to the awkward category browsing system.
Watch this one and see why British horror is some of the best in the world.