Await Further Instructions Review – Keep Calm and Watch TV Grimmfest 2018
A screen flashes, ‘Stay Indoors and Await Further Instructions’. Is it the end of the world, a terrorist attack or something entirely more sinister?
Await Further Instructions is a British sci-fi horror that plays with the ideas of compliance, family dynamics and the xenophobia of post-Brexit Britain. We are introduced to Nick (Sam Gittins) and his girlfriend Annji (Neerja Naik) as they approach his family home on Christmas Eve. After tentatively entering the house we are introduced to the rest of the family, and the reason this modern couple do not want to be there a minute longer than they have to. Grandad’s a racist, mum’s a drip, dad’s a Hitler and the pregnant princess and her beefcake boyfriend are a selfish conjoined blob of a couple. The dialogue is realistic and cringe-inducing in it’s barely masked racist sentiments and we are thrown straight into a atrociously awkward family dynamic.
Then the true horror begins.
The family awaken on Christmas morning to find they are completely barricaded into their house by an unearthly textured metal. They theorise they rationalise, they freak out. Then the TV turns on to an emergency broadcast. ‘Stay Indoors and Await Further Instructions’. Thank God, we’re being told what to do and do not need to think for ourselves. The family blindly follow every instruction the TV screen glows unto them, including the injection of an unknown ‘vacination’ with potentially used needles.
Every ounce of rebellious thought from Nick and Annji is shot down by a father with delusions of military grandeur. He bullies his family into compliance and makes sure that the ‘real men’ are in charge of the proceedings. Power plays and paranoia dominate as this fragmented family dynamic develops more and more cracks. It’s okay though, we’re all safe really. Just go and see what the television says.
A slow burn film with beautiful set design and tight cinematography. The backdrop of Christmas allows for some beautiful moments. Christmas lights flicker around them, switching between an ominous red and an otherworldly green. This beautiful colour design reflects the tension within the household and the constant shift of mood. This is not gore filled, but because of that, every tiny piece of body horror is sickening and exaggerated. There was a definite moment when the entire cinema took a sharp, collective breath, but I’ll leave that for you to see.
The narrative is simplistic, and occasionally plodding in its real-time portrayal, but this allows us to focus on the themes. Await Further Instructions tackles the idea of ‘otherness’ in a Post-Brexit Britain, with Anjii and Nick on the receiving end of the families hostility due to Anjii being ‘not white’. There is a feeling of reality in the portrayal of a family so coerced by the media that they truly believe they are heroes for following its instructions. They fear the unknown and those that threaten their way of life. This is the outcome when science fiction happens to good Christian people.
The reflection on racism is clear, especially in the first act of the film, however, it is the comments on masculinity that held stronger with me. The effect of hypermasculinity is scattered throughout. Tony (Grant Masters) will not listen to a woman, he believes they must know their place as the protected, not the protector, proven by Beth (Abigail Cruttenden). Scott (Kris Saddler) and Kate’s (Holly Weston) relationship plays into stereotypical gender roles as she urges her husband to ‘man up’ and be like her father. Ego, arrogance and toxic masculinity abound, resulting in a display of one-upmanship and poor decisions. The need to keep the patriarchy powering in this family is possibly even more horrific than they creatures keeping them trapped.
All of these themes are wrapped up in a Cronenberg-ian nightmare of technology combining with the physical. Stop motion style special effects are perfectly utilised in a story about the evils of modern technology. The final act definitely slips into an exuberant body horror feast which visualises the power that the media has in modern culture. Even though the ending tumbles into some abstract dystopian Space Odessy nightmare the film maintains its overall impact on arrival.
Despite some glitches in pacing and some 2D character development Await Further Instructions is a great first feature platform for writer Gavin Williams and a beautiful Level 2 step up for director Johnny Kevorkian. It may miss a few marks but it is ambitious, thought-provoking and truly terrifying in how close to reality its dystopia could be.
This was another Grimmfest watch that got the festival rolling early. If you get the chance to see it definitely do, just maybe not in the living room with Uncle Racist and Grandad ‘Knowyourplace’, could be a bit awkward.
Check out my other Grimmfest review of Office Uprising and let me know what you think of Await Further Instruction? Do you still trust your television?