Blu-ray Review: Await Further Instructions (2018)

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Bringing home a new romantic partner to meet the parents is always stressful but traditionally it's hardest on the outsider.

Not so in the case of Nick (Sam Gittins) in Await Further Instructions who, mere moments into the movie, pulls into the driveway of his family home after a long drive and is instantly ready to put the car into reverse, asking his girlfriend Annji (Neerja Naik), "can we not do this?" before adding, "we're going to ruin everyone's Christmas."

It's the last half of Nick's plea that gives us pause and in the hands of another screenwriter might've been used to dig a little deeper into the mind of our main character but is employed in Johnny Kevorkian's movie like a jump scare, reminding us that we're watching a horror movie by foreshadowing the darkness to come.

Giving in to his girlfriend's wish to meet the family that the audience is already primed to be suspicious of before they give us cause, Nick introduces Annji to his people-pleaser mother (Abigail Cruttenden), racist grandfather (David Bradley), his bitter father (Grant Masters), heavily pregnant sister (Holly Weston), and brother-in-law (Kris Saddler).

From lewd comments about Nick being under his girlfriend's spell (only in much coarser language) to rude cracks about foreign doctors or ignorantly accusing Annji of sneaking Indian words into a Scrabble game, as Nick sticks up for them both in a series of escalating arguments, his reasons for not going home for three years suddenly become crystal clear.

Tired from the long day and in no shape to drive, they vow to make a run for it the next morning before everyone wakes up. Unfortunately, Nick and Annji are greeted with the horror movie equivalent of a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking when they open the front door of the house and discover that a mysterious, solid, and indeed black-as-coal substance has trapped them indoors without any communication to the outside world, save for the ominous titular message on the TV to "await further instructions."

With everyone's minds working overtime as they fear the worst and the TV flashing increasing demands at them (which Nick's military oriented grandfather and office manager father are all too willing to follow no questions asked), the young couple must try to find a way out of an even more impossible situation before the family either turns on each other or loses their minds.

An allegory about the dangers of television combined with a pitch black, cynical twist on the holiday season that warns you can never go home again or you may risk not leaving, Await Further Instructions feels like it would make an intriguing triple feature with the thematically similar, albeit vastly superior horror entries It's a Disaster and The Invitation.

Yet while the idea by screenwriter Gavin Williams is a good one in theory, by not bothering to develop the characters beyond the subtlety of an axe that Nick uses to try and knock down the mysterious wall keeping them in, we find we feel very little connection to our protagonists.

Likewise by taking all of the mystery and intrigue out of Instructions in favor of an over-reliance on not so much sci-fi horror special effects as chaotic visual excess, in the end we're left with one big mess that ruins the impact of the film's otherwise inventive premise.

Heavily stylized but narratively empty, Kevorkian wears his '80s era horror influences proudly throughout this work of budget British horror and while both he and Williams exhibit occasional flashes of potential, somewhere along the way they managed to trap themselves inside the heart of the film as well with no idea how to get out...except by chopping at the plot's brains with an axe.

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