Written & Directed By: Richard Powell
Reviewed by: Kelsey Zukowski (The Scream Queen)
Familiar is a dark short film that immediately shows us the twisted fate at hand. It comes full circle, showing how we got to this point and reveals the uncompromising gritty reality behind it. Of course, this is really just setting the tone for what is to follow. At first glance, we really have no real understanding of what’s going on or the weight it holds.
John Dodd’s only escape from his family life misery is the hope o f being essentially free from fatherhood when his daughter goes away to college. He’s done his time and he’s nearly out now, needing freedom behind his residential prison more than ever. Life seems to have other plans though. John’s wife tells him that she is pregnant. It may be a miracle to her, but to John it’s a fate worse than death. He can’t just sit back and allow himself to be stuck again for another 20 years. He still has some control and he’s not willing to go out without a fight. John resorts to abortion methods and drugs his wife. Things don’t stop there. John’s boundaries are clearly ripping off the seams. A darkness in him getting stronger until it completely takes over piece by piece.
Familiar is a beautifully shot film with excellent production levels, something I rarely see in low-budget indie horror screeners like this. The acting is spot on and simply incredible. It is the glue that holds the film together. Robert Nolan as John as is clearly the stand out performance. He shows an outstanding range and real understanding of a character who is so teetering. He nails it all from the subdued, hollow, and distantly numb to the scared, out of his element individual who loses his grip on reality and is determined to go out with a fight no matter how viciously suffocating it might be. Astrida Auza gives a much more subtle performance as his wife, but it’s the little touches that really make it notable. She doesn’t seem like an actor, she seems like a real person who is somewhat content in life, but still struggles and aches for something more.
Familiar is constantly interesting and engaging. Each act of the film is significantly different from the previous, almost seeming like a different being altogether. Still, it all works as a progression. It just has you intrigued and not really sure what is going on. It weaves quite an intricate web and ends up revealing a nightmarish reality far beyond fears of fatherhood. Yet it is that fear of the loss of freedom that takes an entirely different horrifying physical manifestation. Or is it the physicality that brings light to the true terrors of parenting, and tragic domestic living that are merely brought light to by more jarring visuals? That is up to you to decide.