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I was contacted by the executive producer of this film, Zach Green,
asking if I would review this for him. I immediately agreed. This is
great, being contacted and asked to review someone's film feels like an
honour. I set about checking out the film first just to get an idea
about it. It looked interesting and I was looking forward to seeing it.
I clicked on the link, sat back and watched.
The film is about John Dodd (Robert Nolan), a middle aged man who is looking for more out of life than work, his wife and his daughter. He hears a voice in his head and believes it is his thoughts. He begins to act on what it is telling him, and then to his horror, discovers that the voice isn't his.
This film is a work of movie mastery. It is incredibly well shot, the visuals are great and is what you would expect in a mainstream movie. Far better than any "B" movie or TV film. There are only three characters and they are acted perfectly. However almost all the scenes are completely focused upon John Dodd. The pain and anguish each one goes through comes across in a very realistic way. It is especially good when you realise that the majority of all the words spoken are really just the voice John Dodd hears. There are hardly any conversations between the characters.
What I found at the end of the film was it felt like it was longer. Not saying it dragged on forever, but that the story was told in such a way that it felt like a full length movie. I was surprised it was only 20 minutes long. The film takes you on a roller-coaster of emotions. You empathise with the characters, and then their actions completely shock you until finally you feel yourself squirming in your seat in horror.
This is a great film and it was a treat to watch. It left me wanting to see more of the filmmakers work. I would love to see what they could do with a full length movie. I have a new respect for independent movies after viewing this and Rage (2010). I will definitely be on the lookout for more.
If I had to give a brief idea of what Familiar is about without giving
away too much, I'd say that an average family man named John is plagued
by his inner thoughts as he continually acts to deceive and eventually
break free from his family. However, John soon comes to realize that
his inner demons are far more tangible than expected.
A majority of the movie is told through a dark, and tonal inner monologue by actor Robert Nolan. This is what truly makes the film. Nolan delivers an excellent performance, portraying a character who has grown tired of his routine life, and utterly has reached a point of despising his wife and daughter. This movie in some respects, whether they would admit it or not, could probably relate to family men who have faced the rigors of a mundane work and home routine. There are also segments of course where conversations take place between the actors, but still these show the strong abilities of Nolan.
Astrida Auza and Cathryn Hostick give great performances as the members of John's immediate family, but Nolan again excels by displaying an unenthusiastic, deceivingly loving father/husband. The shift from the dark and unforgiving John to the disconnected and forcefully caring patriarch is great to see. At times it is even draining to see just how truly miserable he is.
Another major plus for this movie is the self-focused horror. Where many famous movies portray vengeful slashers or heartless monsters, others appeal to true fear in facing one's own darkest demons. For John, this is quite literal. As he eventually starts to resist his dark urges, his inner voice starts to manifest in other ways.
Without spoiling, I will say that some portions of Familiar are going to be divisive. I find that there are many camps of horror fans. And for most, the realms of psychological horror and more visceral, gory horror do not coincide. This is a unique factor in Familiar. It is a movie that collectively concerns a man battling his own emotions and captivity due to familial responsibilities, but leads into something more physical. The final moments are infinitely gorier than the opening half of the movie seems to lead to.
On the basis of gore, I can only say that some horror fans may not appreciate the sights and may not care for the final moments. Based on a well-rounded horror fan who can appreciate the effects though, the scene is done particularly well. The body horror is obscene, but not to a level of sheer ridiculousness. The blood is convincing, and Nolan continues to nail his performance. His cringing and self determination throughout, despite staunch opposition by his inner voice serves well to build up to a fantastic finale.
To any film fans that are hesitant to see gore, all I can really say is that ignoring this short film would be an injustice. I'd encourage you to tough it out. This film has so much to offer in terms of acting, production, and special effects.
In terms of short films, I believe there are indie gems out there which are consistently overlooked. This movie is towards the upper end of these gems, and I'd encourage any horror fan to check it out. Especially if you are a fan of psychologically driven plots, and a bit of cringe worthy moments.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Though my favorite subgenre of horror varies with the changing
seasons, body horror has always been one of my obsessions. Out of all
of the short films I checked out this week, FAMILIAR is by far my
favorite. Fantastically acted. Suspensefully shot. And gruelingly
written; FAMILIAR allows you into the head of one desperately apathetic
Robert Nolan plays Dodd, a man who hates his life. He loathes his wife. He's unimpressed by his kid. And now it seems as if something is growing inside of him. Soon, Dodd is hearing voices from the mysterious lump which is telling him to make some drastic changes to his life. Is Dodd having a midlife crisis? Is he going insane? Or is there something really lurking under Dodd's flesh? All of these questions are revealed in this slow burner which ends with 3rd degree scorches. And lots and lots of blood.
I can't recommend FAMILIAR enough. Find out how to check out this short here (fatalpictures.blogspot.com). It's a gory short that packs a visceral wallop harder than five fill length features."
- Ain't it cool news
The quality of independent short films has been nothing short of
amazing in the past few years. Young, budding directors have taken to
the format and have flourished in telling their individual stories in
30-minutes or less timeframes.
My most recent stellar experience with a horror film short comes courtesy of Richard Powell's Familiar. Echoing a Stephen King vibe while emulating a works by David Cronenberg, Familiar was a brilliant and confident piece of filmmaking that confidently tells the story of an everyday man named John Dodd (Robert Nolan) that begins to have destructive and violent thoughts towards members of his own family.
John's voice is primarily projected via a narrative and the soothing hypnotic voice of Robert Nolan is a perfect fit for the unfolding developments. There is a point in the short where Dodd finds himself in front of a bathroom mirror and it is this scene that catapults the film to its highly satisfying climax.
Almost everything in Familiar is pitch perfect. From the original music by Bernie Greenspoon to the wonderful effects and make-up teams that showed an expert precision that is usually lacking in larger budget full-length features produced out of Hollywierd.
I will guarantee viewers that you will not see the events unfolding as they do ahead of their reveal. All to the credit of Richard Powell's script, the story unfolds in directions not so easily taken.
This makes Familiar an above average film with a stamp of both our appreciation and approval. Powell has shown some exceptional talent and his growth from his previous (and still brilliant) film, Worm is clearly on display in full gory effect.
The quality of independent short films has been nothing short of amazing in the past few years and Familiar takes its place amongst the best.
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