Review: FirstBorn (EIFF)

Firstborn

Starring Antonia Thomas, Jonathan Hyde, Lucy Chappell, Luke Norris

Directed by Nirpal Bhogal

Reviewed at the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival

The lives of a young couple are thrown into turmoil when it becomes clear their newborn daughter is a magnet for supernatural forces.

FirstBorn is an example of ‘council house horror’ in which the occult or the weird is brought to the doorstep of the young and impoverished, but with a twist. Antonia Thomas (Misfits) makes for an engaging lead, carrying much of the movie and giving the film what life it has. Her pregnancy is an accident, but she and her partner James (Luke Norris) are more than happy to see it through. For James, however, the supernatural happenings that follow their daughter’s birth are not entirely a surprise: his family has history.

Enter Jonathan Hyde, as James’ estranged father Alistair. His occult practices have driven James away, but now his help is needed for the new parents to cope with the demonic incursions into their otherwise normal lives. A time jump to when the child is six years old and attending school moves FirstBorn past the ‘haunted baby’ genre, while the introduction of Eileen Davies’ older ‘wise woman’ Elizabeth proves to be both a boon and a threat to the young family.

Essentially there is little here that’s not been seen before, with a surfeit of noisy jump moments and depictions of demonic entities that verge on the hackneyed. Despite that lack of originality, FirstBorn is a rather enjoyable if limited movie that is less of a timewaster than it might at first appear.

Verdict: The lead actress lifts FirstBorn above the banal. 6/10

Brian J. Robb

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