Horror in Short: Familiar
Review by Marc Patterson
John (Robert Nolan) is forty-five years of age and in the middle of his own personal hell. While he should be seeing his only child off to her final years of high school before moving towards “freedom” he’s recently learned that his wife has just gotten pregnant. His boorish, dull, and soul sucking wife. Not that John is a catch himself. This guy makes manic depressives look happy by comparison. Nonetheless he’s trapped in a prison sentence of domestication and parenthood – a place he clearly doesn’t want to be.
In dark desperation, he starts drugging his wife with RU486. The drug takes its effect and kills the baby, but at the same time destroys his wife. She falls into her own depressed state. Prior, she was content to exist day-to-day in a monochromatic listless kind of way. Now everything has gone to shit and she barely gets out of bed. John tends to her, more out of obligation than true concern, and in this state begins to spurn more malicious feelings.
He tells his daughter that he’s concerned for his wife, and her depression – that she might hurt herself. But secretly he commits himself to slowly poisoning her so he can escape his hellish life. It soon becomes apparent that perhaps John’s thoughts are not his own, that he is being controlled by something. That something manifests in the most grotesque of ways and John must confront this cancerous mutation before it destroys him.
Familiar is a horror short for adults who grew up on video nasties and are now looking for a more mature story, but still inwardly crave sickening bits of gorish titillation that will make even the most hardened genre vet cringe. It’s a true short – meaning this film couldn’t exist as a feature on its own. Additionally, I wouldn’t want it to be a feature. It works perfectly in its twenty-minute run time and is shot to deliver a complete story, not a teaser for larger things to come.
It’s films like Familiar that excite me about the horror genre. It’s wonderfully shot, and acted. It understands its limitations and stays within those parameters. And to go back to the storytelling – it has depth and oh-my-god… but actual sub-text! No, not some fancy, frilly, sub-text that’s insinuated after the fact, but real sustenance and layers to chew through. Frankly said – Familiar is the kind of refreshing, and yet horrifying, storytelling I only wish I could consistently see coming out of Hollywood.
The H-word now dropped, I perfectly get that many filmmakers use the short as a calling-card for bigger projects. We’ve seen a slew of fantastic shorts from Drew Daywalt years before he got a deal to direct his first feature film. But now with Richard Powell horror fans are getting a new name to watch. Trust me, with Worm, and now Familiar, this guy is making some solid horror shorts that are sure to have folks in the community talking. In the meantime, while we wait for that day to happen we’ll gladly kick back and watch more of his short films any day of the week.