Review: Familiar

Psychological terror meets body horror in this chilling little movie.

Short horror films are hard to get right. You need to have the correct balance of characters, punchy style, timing, and unexpected twists. Thankfully, Canadian filmmaker Richard Powell knows all this. Not only is he aware of the rules, he also knows how to play with them to the greatest effect.

John Dodd (Robert Nolan) is a middle-aged family man who hates his family. Through his internal voiceover we learn that, in spite of the content persona he radiates, his every waking moment is a torment thanks to his wife and daughter. When his spouse complains about her job, he tells her she’s underappreciated, but is really thinking: Yeah, you’re on time every day – but so are my bowel movements!

Even his dreams about an empty nest once his daughter has flown the coop are dashed when John’s wife announces she’s pregnant, leading to some seriously sick and sneaky shenanigans from him. But there’s something else going on here, something you’d never guess from the first half of the movie, and which takes us to a pretty dark and twisted place altogether.

Reminiscent of early Lynch or Cronenberg, Familiar starts off in Dexter land and ends up where you definitely wouldn’t have thought; for that reason alone it deserves your attention. At only 23 minutes, it also packs a lot in – yet doesn’t feel rushed. The acting’s pretty decent for a film of this ilk, too, with all the main players doing a good job of convincing us this is real life. Plus the effects, from Resident Evil: Afterlife veterans The Butcher Shop, are – even on a budget – top notch. But the mark of a good horror short is how long it stays with you, and Familiar is something I expect to stay with me for a long, long time.

The kind of short horror shocker you certainly will not be familiar with. 8/10

Paul Kane

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