Await Further Instructions

01/09/2020 06:26

Film: Await Further Instructions

Year: 2018

Director: Johnny Kevorkian

Writer: Gavin Williams

Starring: Sam Gittins, Neerja Naik and Abigail Cruttenden



This was a film that I was intrigued to check out when I caught part of the trailer at the Gateway Film Center. I don’t believe they ultimately showed it, but it still caught my eye. I know I heard a podcast cover it briefly and it went on my list of films to check out for sure. As I was driving home from Christmas, I heard a podcast bring this up as it does take place around the holiday, so I recommended it to my girlfriend and we watched it together that night. The synopsis is a family’s Christmas takes a strange turn when they awake to find themselves trapped inside and begin receiving mysterious instructions through the television.

We establish the characters pretty early on, which works. Nick (Sam Gittins) and his girlfriend Annji (Neerja Naik) arrive at his parent’s place. Through some conversations a bit later on, we learn that he doesn’t communicate with them that often and it’s been some time since he’s come home. What I gathered, since these two are getting serious, she’s pushing to try to bridge this broken relationship.

Beth (Abigail Cruttenden) is Nick’s mother and she’s elated to see him. They come in and next meet with Grandad (David Bradley). He’s watching TV and immediately sees that he’s racist and rude. It is established that he’s a former soldier and believe also police officer, he was hard on his son and Nick’s father Tony (Grant Masters). Tony comes into the room next and he’s an office manager. He makes a snide comment about stating if you’re going to do something in writing and making the young couple doesn’t feel very welcome. Annji and Beth interject, but Tony doesn’t sway on his stance.

His favorite child shows up next, his daughter Kate (Holly Weston). She’s with child and married to Scott (Kris Saddler), who is a tough looking guy. The family tries to get along, but it doesn’t go well with Kate making comments that Nick isn’t as clever as he thinks and many racist comments being tossed toward Annji. The young couple decides to leave early next morning in response.

They both wake up feeling a bit groggy. When they open the door, it is covered with what seems like metal. They can’t push their way through and they find all of the windows are covered. Nick finds a hatchet and tries to make a hole. This brings Beth and finally Tony who is irate about the noise. He tries to take over as leader and demands order. He feels there was an attack and that this is done by the government. The TV provides a message to remain calm and await further instructions. They sit down to have dinner to create normalcy, where the TV starts to give them commands.

There’s quite a bit to unravel here and I dig a lot of what they’re trying to do. The first thing is that since they’re isolated, as humans they do what we normally would to create normalcy. Tony being the head of the household now that his father is up in age, he’s trying to take command. He gets into it with his father though as he tries to undermine him as he doesn’t feel he’s strong enough. This is an interesting dynamic here as we learn more about their relationship as we go on. Grandad was a soldier and thinks he’s strong. He tried to toughen up Tony, but it created scars that are unhealed and Tony never lived up even though he has a successful job as a manager in an office. Grandad doesn’t respect it. Tony in turn has projected onto his son and drove him from to not communicate with him out of resentment.

What I find interesting is that there’s no seal or anything on the TV. It is literally just old school type on a black screen, but Tony just assumes it is government. I don’t completely blame him though, as he thinks what he’s doing is right. It is when the commands that are given start to get darker and having them do some horrible things that I’m shocked he doesn’t question more. I think part of that is he has stuck his heels into the ground and won’t back down.

I’ve already touched on a bit about the dynamic of the family, but there’s also the issue of racism as well. Everyone in the family, aside from Nick and Beth, talk down to Annji due to her being of Indian descent. What is interesting though is that she’s actually one of the smarter people here and is a doctor, or at least in training to be one. Nick is also quite intelligent, which bothers his sister Kate, who isn’t as smart, but she feels that Nick has always showed her up. This is something she is harboring so as the tension raises, she finally calls him out. Beth is undermined and pretty much ignored from Tony. I do feel this is an issue of misogyny that was probably handed down from Grandad as well. It’s an interesting idea of me that all of these unresolved issues come to the forefront when faced with this stressful situation.

Overall I’d also say this film is really good in building tension. It does come with some slight issues as well. First off, I love that it doesn’t waste time getting into this. We establish the characters and the strained relationship where it builds tension of how awkward the family interaction is. They’re then locked in. I do feel, and my girlfriend pointed this out, Nick and Annji are trying to sneak off. When they realize they can’t and then having the windows blacked out, they shift right to dinner when it was early morning. It’s not a huge deal, but slightly jarring and the film struggles with presenting how long they’re here. I like how the commands getting progressively worse and the danger of the fellow man as society breaks down is great. I didn’t love the reveal or how it plays out in the end. I would have liked something a bit more grounded as some of the images creeped me out. It just went in a cheesy direction that didn’t work as well as I would have liked personally.

To shift this to the acting, I thought it was good across the board. Gittins and Naik are solid as are lead counterparts. He doesn’t want them to meet his family, as he is slightly embarrassed, but also in my eyes, better than them. Naik seems like someone who is used to being treated this way and knows how to handle it. She is quite respectful, but regardless, they’re rude to her. Cruttenden seems like she’s been ignored by her husband, but has a good heart. I do like to see her stand up to him eventually. Bradley is a real jerk. His performance though is really good and made me laugh if I’m going to be honest. Masters is very similar and I slightly feel bad for when he reveals something from his past. He’s a jerk though as well. Weston and Saddler are both the negative version of Nick and Annji. Kate isn’t as smart, but feels slightly and knows it. Scott is what I consider ‘popcorn muscles’. He does want he’s told and not as tough as he thinks.

Shifting to the effects, there’s not a lot of them early on. I love the isolation and contained feel of the movie. Being trapped inside this house as tensions raise is claustrophobic feeling. There is some CGI with what is trapping them that I could have done without though. For how simple what is being shown on the television is, I actually really dug that. We get symbols that were really creepy. I also thought this was shot just fine overall.

There’s not a lot that stuck out to me from the soundtrack, aside from when an alarm goes off through the television. It is actually a subtle, but quite unnerving sound that helped drive the tension when used. I got nervous that bad things were going to happen when they’re going off, so it worked for me.

Now with that said, this film really had some good potential to it. I like the set-up, the characters and how the movie feels. The tension is really driven by this along with some of the use with sound and just everything that is presented. I was disappointed by the ending though. I really wanted it to be something else or different, but what we got really didn’t have the impact that I wanted. I still thought this was effective up until that point with its social commentary. It really is something that many of us feel with our own families I’m sure. I feel that this is an above average film that is really close to being good. With a few tweaks, I think it would have gotten there for sure.


My Rating: 7 out of 10