Familiar (2011) Movie Review

From producer Zach Green and writer/director Richard Powell, the duo responsible for the darkly comical genre short “Worm”, comes the wickedly enjoyable short “Familiar”, a film that owes as much to the body horror of David Cronenberg as it does the outrageousness of Frank Henenlotter. It’s my favorite kind of horror flick: The movie takes an inherently silly premise and treats it very seriously. The end result is nothing sort of brilliant, and cements Fatal Pictures as one of the most daring genre outlets currently in operation. I sincerely hope that these guys put together a full-length feature in the future, as they I think they could definitely pull it off with very little effort. What these guys accomplish on a miniscule budget is nothing short of impressive.

“Word” star Robert Nolan skillfully embodies the role of bored husband John, a man who is growing increasingly displeased with his typical suburban life. As he cruises through his 40’s on autopilot, our hero often daydreams about his parasitic daughter heading off the college, though most of his time is spent obsessing over how much he detests his wife Charlotte (Astrida Auza). Just when he thinks that he’s free of his stale marriage and his pathetic existence, his spouse drops a bomb: she’s pregnant, a revelation which causes John to have a complete psychological breakdown. Under control of the persuasive voice inside his head, John embarks on a dark journey to free himself from his self-imposed shackles, that is, until things go too far.

“Familiar” is powered entirely by John’s narration; there are very few actual conversations in the movie, and the ones we do get are tied directly to the tyrannical voice controlling John’s life. Nolan, who knocked one out of the cinematic park in Powell’s “Worm”, gives a suitably sinister performance as a husband on the brink of utter madness. He seems to thoroughly understand what Green and Powell are looking for, and it’s ultimately his ability to bring these unstable characters to life that make these films work as well as they do. Of course, the filmmakers do a wonderful job stretching their limited production budgets to the breaking point, particularly during the picture’s blood-soaked finale. If you’re at all squeamish, it’s probably going to mess with you.

Fatal Pictures continues to impress the hell out of me. The company’s short films completely blow away anything you’re getting in mainstream American theaters right now, and they’re doing it for a fraction of the cost. “Familiar” is easily their best cinematic endeavor to-date, as it features strong performances, an intriguing story, and a third act freak-out that should make body horror aficionados squeal with unbridled delight. As I said before, I’d love to see Zach Green and Richard Powell tackle a full-length feature down the road. As long as they bring Robert Nolan and cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson along for the ride, I’m down for whatever.

Richard Powell (director) / Richard Powell (screenplay)
CAST: Robert Nolan … John Dodd
Astrida Auza … Charlotte Dodd
Cathryn Hostick … Jordan Dodd