Familiar (2012) Extreme Passive Aggression

Film Poster for Familiar
Written and Directed by Richard Powell, Familiar is a look at passive aggression in the extreme. Starring Robert Nolan (Worm, Heir), Astrida Auza (Feed the Devil, Return) and Cat Hostick (Ejecta, Three’s a Crowd) we learn that in the Dodd household, all is not well.

Rather interestingly, John is the twin brother of Geoffrey Dodd from Worm. In the earlier 2010 film, Geoffrey is portrayed as being psychotic; so in no small way this mental problem could be said to be a “family tradition.”

Powell (Consumption, Worm) is a master at showing the less pleasant things in life, whether it is a relationship gone sour (Familiar), dissatisfaction about the job (Worm) or hidden desires (Heir) he skews the material into moving and dark glimpses into the human psyche.

In this tale, John Dodd is a man fed up with his relationship; a wife he detests and a daughter whom he refers to as a “parasite,” this leaves him feeling trapped and desperate. Nolan, as Dodd, gives an exceptional performance as a man driven into apparent madness. His internal dialogues and the increasing panic at being unable to escape are brilliant.

Auza plays the passive aggressive partner to perfection. The whole film actually depicts this mental problem with disturbing reality. The long silences at meal times, the body language and having to “pry” information out of the non-communicative spouse are all experiences suffered by those who have been in this type of relationship.

Dodd decides that he must rid himself of the wife who is driving him insane and begins to work on removing her via drugs after successfully using steroids to solve another problem with the woman. After the steroid episode John begins to notice that what he thought was an internal dialogue is, in fact, more of a dictatorial rant.

The man’s battle then becomes focused on his sanity and the loss of control he believes has occurred. Powell’s tale feels like a Henry James plot. Think A Turn of the Screw here, and all the elements of the film click neatly into place like well crafted puzzle pieces. By the end we ask ourselves just how much of what happens is in John’s mind and how much may be real.

Cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson once again shows the mastery of light and shadow which makes his work so brilliant. The contrasts of crisp clear camera work with the element of darkness applied are perfect as in his other films.

Familiar is available on iTunes right now and this is a short film not to be missed. Easily as powerful as any of Powell’s other films, but the title is evocative of the feeling one gets when watching the movie. Anyone who has been in a marriage like this empathizes with John Dodd immediately and the whole thing does indeed feel familiar. A 5 out of 5 stars for an excellent snapshot of the madness behind passive aggression.

29 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Heir (2015): Disturbing Dark and Powerful

Poster for Heir
Written and directed by Richard Powell (Worm, Familiar, Consumption) the 2015 short film Heir from Fatal Pictures is a walk on the dark side of life. This disturbingly dark movie will have its world premiere at Montreal’s FanTasia International Film Festival this summer.

Robert Nolan plays Gordon, the father of Paul who harbors a dark secret side to himself known only to Denis played by Bill Oberst Jr. Nolan (Mourning has Broken, Worm, Familiar) is a Powell regular and worked in several of his films. The actor specializes in bringing a lot to any of the roles he plays. His characters have an impressive depth and he brings an air of believability to the table.

Bill Oberst Jr. (Scary or Die, Take This Lollipop) as Denis is disturbingly twisted and terrifying. Only Oberst can deliver a character that simultaneously comes across as perverse and knowingly evil with such conviction. From the moment we meet the man in a cafe, with the sign behind the counter advertising British meat pies, the viewer knows that this is not a nice chap at all.

The film begins with Gordon sitting in front of his computer. The room is dark and the screen lights up his face as he crops a picture of a boy and woman while flashing back to the day he took their picture. The man is setting up a “play date.” Glancing nervously and guiltily around the room he gets directions.

Still from Heir
Gordon and Paul meet Denis

The man at the other end of the computer conversation is Denis, an old “school” buddy of Gordon’s. This soon reveals itself to be a lie of convenience, when the man jokingly asks the father of Paul about what subjects they “shared.” At first glance it seems that the only thing these two share is a taste for perversion.

“It smells in here,” the boy says as the buzzing of a fly is heard in the background. We are as uneasy as the youngster and Denis begins to become aggressive in his desire. The conflict in Heir appears initially to be the contrast of both men. Gordon who has been, apparently, attempting to control his urges where Denis has allowed himself to go with his base desires and is rotting in his den of evil.

Cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson has the camera crisp and clear until he allows the shadows to fall across Gordon’s face at the appropriate moments. Lighting plays a clear role in the film and is used to emphasis the underlying moods of the players. Davidson continues to go above and beyond, just as he did in Mourning Has Broken.

Oberst Jr and Nolan deliver as different sides of the same coin. The two actors are excellent at what they do and their casting was spot on. Powell is an expert at showing the darker side of the world in unique and disturbing ways. There should be a few gongs for this film in Montreal and both Bill and Robert should walk away with some honors.

Still from Heir
Gordon and Denis

This is a brilliantly dark film with a disturbing feeling of depth and one which should prompt some heavy duty discussion after viewing. Prepare to be surprised, disturbed and entertained. Heir will have its world premiere at the Montreal FanTasia International Film Festival this summer.

27 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Heir (2015): Disturbing Dark and Powerful [UPDATE]

Written and directed by Richard Powell (Worm, Familiar, Consumption) the 2015 short film Heir from Fatal Pictures is a walk on the dark side of life. T

Poster for Heir

[UPDATE]

Zach Green has informed Mike’s Film Talk that Heir has been nominated for Best Short Film at the 14th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards. For those who would like to vote for the film, click the link and read the instructions. Congratulations to Zach and his cast/crew for the nomination.

Written and directed by Richard Powell (Worm, Familiar, Consumption) the 2015 short film Heir from Fatal Pictures is a walk on the dark side of life. This disturbingly dark movie will have its world premiere at Montreal’s FanTasia International Film Festival this summer.

Robert Nolan plays Gordon, the father of Paul who harbors a dark secret side to himself known only to Denis played by Bill Oberst Jr. Nolan (Mourning has Broken, Worm, Familiar) is a Powell regular and worked in several of his films. The actor specializes in bringing a lot to any of the roles he plays. His characters have an impressive depth and he brings an air of believability to the table.

Bill Oberst Jr. (Scary or Die, Take This Lollipop) as Denis is disturbingly twisted and terrifying. Only Oberst can deliver a character that simultaneously comes across as perverse and knowingly evil with such conviction. From the moment we meet the man in a cafe, with the sign behind the counter advertising British meat pies, the viewer knows that this is not a nice chap at all.

The film begins with Gordon sitting in front of his computer. The room is dark and the screen lights up his face as he crops a picture of a boy and woman while flashing back to the day he took their picture. The man is setting up a “play date.” Glancing nervously and guiltily around the room he gets directions.

Still from Heir
Gordon and Paul meet Denis

The man at the other end of the computer conversation is Denis, an old “school” buddy of Gordon’s. This soon reveals itself to be a lie of convenience, when the man jokingly asks the father of Paul about what subjects they “shared.” At first glance it seems that the only thing these two share is a taste for perversion.

“It smells in here,” the boy says as the buzzing of a fly is heard in the background. We are as uneasy as the youngster and Denis begins to become aggressive in his desire. The conflict in Heir appears initially to be the contrast of both men. Gordon who has been, apparently, attempting to control his urges where Denis has allowed himself to go with his base desires and is rotting in his den of evil.

Cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson has the camera crisp and clear until he allows the shadows to fall across Gordon’s face at the appropriate moments. Lighting plays a clear role in the film and is used to emphasis the underlying moods of the players. Davidson continues to go above and beyond, just as he did in Mourning Has Broken.

Oberst Jr and Nolan deliver as different sides of the same coin. The two actors are excellent at what they do and their casting was spot on. Powell is an expert at showing the darker side of the world in unique and disturbing ways. There should be a few gongs for this film in Montreal and both Bill and Robert should walk away with some honors.

Still from Heir
Gordon and Denis

This is a brilliantly dark film with a disturbing feeling of depth and one which should prompt some heavy duty discussion after viewing. Prepare to be surprised, disturbed and entertained. Heir will have its world premiere at the Montreal FanTasia International Film Festival this summer.

27 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith