Freehold Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Precision Pictures
Directed by Dominic Bridges
Written by Dominic Bridges and Rae Brunton
2017, 80 minutes, Not Yet Rated
UK FrightFest premiere on 25th August 2017
DVD Released on 2nd October 2017
Javier Botet as Orlan
Mim Shaikh as Hussein
Mandeep Dhillon as Mel
Michael McKell as Gerry
Just the story of two flatmates living together in central London. The twist here though, is that one party is entirely unaware of the other’s existence. Wide-boy wheeler dealer estate agent Hussein lives obliviously in his lush bachelor pad, unaware of the stranger lurking behind the closet. But at night and when Hussein goes out to work, the lodger comes out to play…
Slowly, the creeping stranger’s motives become clear, and his transgressions begin to step up from gross pettiness to actively destructive. But what is his endgame? And how long can Hussein ignore or misconstrue the warning signs popping up around his home? Dude needs to look up Housebound on Netflix, sharpish.
This debut of co-writer and director Dominic Bridges is remarkably assured, with nary a misstep along the way. Freehold (formerly the superior but less marketable 2 Pigeons) is one of the most original, startling and tense low-budget genre pictures in years. From the moment Javier Botet’s skinny, tall and striking Orlan emerges from Hussein’s bedroom, the film grips, hard, and never lets go.
The story is deep black comedy, but not once does that get in the way of the drama or tension. As amusing as it is to watch Hussein scrub his teeth with a brush that has been up another man’s arse (your mileage may vary, quite vastly) it’s far more disgusting and upsetting; even more so once we get to know Hussein as a person and watch his life begin to fall apart. Freehold is body horror of the most cosmetic kind, and I found myself thinking twice about swigging from that bottle of mouthwash afterwards. Orlan’s transgressions are both petty and deeply horrifying, and Freehold will be sure to sicken large swathes of its audience.
But even more impressive is the film’s depiction of its villain. Orlan is no horror movie bogeyman (although, yes, there are bogies) and the minutiae of his secret existence is shown with admirable realism. The film does an excellent job of showing how a man might get away with living undiscovered in your home for a very long time. This is one horror film which should do particularly well outside of the cinema, particularly among bachelors and young couples in their cosy little homes and apartments.
Bridges’ background as a director of TV commercials doubtlessly serves him well here, beautifully framing Hussein’s lifestyle and apartment in a way many young men (and their frustrated girlfriends) will recognise. The action never leaves the flat, the direction wringing maximum claustrophobia and paranoia out of Hussein’s plight. Eventually, as its point becomes clear, the writing is slightly too on-the-nose - and Orlan’s endgame isn’t as fascinating as just watching him hang around the flat – but it’s never anything less than tense and engaging.
The scrawny, terrifying Botet is the star of the show, but that’s not to discount Mim Shaikh as Hussein, managing to keep the character sympathetic and likeable in spite of his big mouth and selfish attitude. It’s a remarkable display of two performers acting around each other, the stage actively shrinking with every passing moment.
Freehold is a fascinating and entirely British subversion of the home invasion movie. It’s as funny as it shocking; a profoundly disturbing character study of the man who might be sneaking around your home while you’re at work, hawking into the mouthwash.