Director: Richard Powell (‘Worm’)
Starring: Robert Nolan (‘Battleground’), Astrida Auza (‘The Bare Bones’) and Cathryn Hostrick (‘Words of Goodbye’)
Horror films involving monsters that invade people’s bodies are often played as comical, and rarely take themselves seriously. The horror short ‘Familiar,’ written and directed by Richard Powell and produced by Zach Green, puts a welcome spin on the idea, showcasing the damaging psychological and physical effects the situation can have on the characters. More horror films should follow in ‘Familiar’s lead, balancing the psychological trauma with the gore and attacks commonly seen in the genre.
‘Familiar,’ which was produced by Powell and Green’s production company Fatal Pictures, follows John Dodd (played by Robert Nolan), a middle-aged man who begins emotionally detaching himself from his family. Despite having a stable home life, including a loving wife, Charlotte (portrayed by Astrida Auza), and their well-adjusted teenager daughter, Jordan (played by Cathryn Hostick), John begins hearing a voice in his head, telling him to harm them. While John’s conscience appears at times, as he momentarily hesitates to hurt Charlotte and Jordan, the voice becomes more persistent in its orders to hurt his family.
After learning that Charlotte is pregnant again, John becomes convinced that it’s her attempt to ruin his life, and force him to settle down for another 18 years. John decides to end the pregnancy so that he can truly start his life. While striving to stop his wife from controlling his life, at the insistence of the voice, John must also contend with the monster growing inside him.
‘Familiar’s scribe-director Richard Powell, who has had previous experience in the horror genre writing, helming and producing such shorts as ‘Worm’ and ‘Consumption,’ mixes the right balance of psychological trauma with visual scares in the film. His latest horror short frightfully starts off by showcasing the emotional effects people experience when forced to choose between what they know is right, and what an outside force is telling them to do. John subconsciously knows that hurting his wife just because she’s pregnant is wrong. But with the voice in his head continuously saying that Charlotte’s trying to ruin his life, he starts believing the lies.
‘Familiar’ certainly makes its viewers question the toll stress has on a person. The film initially presents John as resorting to harming his family as a result of a break-down. As John starts to witness how his recent actions are affecting his family, especially the end of the pregnancy for Charlotte, he becomes determined to stop the voice in his head. For a 24-minute film, John is surprisingly developed, experiencing a range of emotions and setting out on a course of action to fix his mistakes.
John intriguingly realizes the voice in his head isn’t the result of stress, and is actually a monster growing inside his body. He becomes willing to do anything to stop it, even if it means sacrificing himself. Through extreme gore and intriguing special effects, John begins mutilating himself in order to rid his body of the intruder that’s commanding him to hurt his family.
‘Familiar’ is a fascinating take on the horror genre, as it doesn’t solely focus on graphic gore and killings to scare its audience. The film successfully starts off by showcasing the negative effects the monster has on John’s actions and thoughts. As the story progress, Powell builds up the tension in John’s mind until the monster is introduced, continuously scaring viewers through psychological and visual effects.
Written by: Karen Benardello