Await Further Instructions Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Dark Sky Films
Directed by Johnny Kevorkian
Written by Gavin Williams
2018, 91 minutes, Not Rated
Released on October 5th, 2018
Sam Gittins as Nick Milgram
Neerja Naik as Annji
Grant Masters as Tony Milgram (Dad)
Abigail Cruttenden as Beth Milgram (Mum)
Holly Weston as Kate Milgram
Kris Saddler as Scott
David Bradley as Granddad
It’s the things you love that kill you.
One simple line sitting on the screen, before the first image is seen, and a smile breaks across my face. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a single line can set a tone that will settle into your bones over the course of an hour and a half and stay with you long after. That’s what truly effective horror does – it stays with you and presents you with a scenario that automatically puts you in the moment (no matter how batshit crazy). If you’re very fortunate, the horror will come at you in a way that you’ve never seen before.
Await Further Instructions is the story of the Milgram family and their traditional British Christmas. Nick (Sam Gittins; Obey) is returning home for the holidays with his beautiful Indian girlfriend, Annji (Neerja Naik; Sold), for the first time in years. His beloved Mum, Beth (Abigail Cruttenden, The Theory of Everything), is thrilled to see him. His father, Tony (Grant Masters; British TV series Silent Witness), is cold and angry. His vacuous sister, Kate (Holly Weston, Dementamania), arrives with her husband, Scott (Kris Saddler; Painkiller), very pregnant and looking to stir up trouble. Add in a very racist and ill-tempered Granddad (David Bradley; Argus Filch from the Harry Potter series, Hot Fuzz) and you have a recipe for the Christmas from Hell. When the family awakens on December 25th to find the house closed off from the outside world by an impenetrable black substance and all communication shut down, things go from bad to lethal. What’s going on outside? Is it a virus? Terrorist attacks? A sick and twisted psychological experiment? No one knows, and everyone is losing their humanity and their minds as the TV sends them messages, explaining what to do in order to survive.
Await Further Instructions is tightly shot, panicky and claustrophobic. The characters become uglier (both physically and morally) as one message after the next is given. Family degenerate into foes before you know it as Dad blindly takes orders on faith and nearly everyone else falls in line. The score is subtle but effective, and sounds are used in a dozen sneaky ways to make you feel the panic. It’ll make you feel ugly as you pick a side and debate. What would you do?
The cast are a talented bunch of classically trained actors who inhabit each role they play. They draw real emotions that will well up, almost unbidden, as you come to your own conclusions and theories. There’s not an ounce of hokeyness to be found in this minimalist film that allows the scares to come from the sublime and (in an off-the-wall finale) the H.R. Giger-esque. Dad and Granddad stand out even further from the rest. They’re just so…sad and despicable and relevant.
All the while, you see where different topics are skewered in a satire of pure exaggeration that is not just dark but jet black. Religion, nationalism, loyalty to the job, dependence on technology – what it really comes down to is fanaticism. I couldn’t help but think (at multiple points) of a Nazi soldier crying out, “But I was just following orders!”
Await Further Instructions is a legitimate masterstroke in that it lets you decide which one is the worst form of fanaticism for your personal tastes. Everyone can take away a different flavor from the message. They did warn you that “it’s the things you love that kill you”, remember? Everybody loves something that’s bad for them.
Oh yeah…it’s also one hell of a good horror film, blending the psychological with the visceral and throwing in a sci-fi palette for good measure. This one will be on a lot of critics’ year-ending Top 10 lists. I know it’s on mine.