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IFI Horrorthon 2018 Review - AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS

AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS review
A family's Christmas is disturbed when a mysterious force quarantines them inside their home, delivering instructions through their TV set.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Johnny Kevorkian

Starring: Sam Gittins, Neerja Naik, Abigail Cruttenden, David Bradley, Holly Weston

await further instructions poster


In 1961, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of social experiments to determine how far the average person could be pushed by their obedience to authority. The human guinea pigs were tricked into believing that they had the power to administer electric shocks to fellow participants, and the results painted a damning picture of our blind obedience, with most of those taking part all too willing to inflict what they believed was physical pain on their fellow man.

The experiments have been dramatised several times over the last decade in films like 2010's Zenith and 2015's Experimenter, while others, like 2010's The Experiment and 2012's Compliance, have drawn heavily on the theme. Director Johnny Kevorkian's Await Further Instructions might be the first movie to appropriate Milgram's experiment to a sci-fi/horror setting.


AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS review

Kevorkian sets his movie at that time of the year when we're at our most stressful - Christmas. The not so subtly named Nick Milgram (Sam Gittins) returns to his family home after a three year absence with his Asian girlfriend, Annji (Neerja Naik). Nick is greeted happily by his mother, Beth (Abigail Cruttenden), but his authoritarian father, Tony (Grant Masters), isn't so receptive and it's not long before Nick's cantankerous Granddad (David Bradley) and his chavvy sister Kate (Holly Weston) start making casually racist remarks. With none of his family willing to defend Annji's honour, Nick storms off to bed, planning to sneak out first thing in the morning and enjoy Christmas alone with Annji.

When Nick and Annji attempt to leave at the crack of dawn, they find the house has been sealed by a mysterious black, liquorice like substance that no amount of physical force can break through. Turning on the TV, the Milgrams are greeted with a message - "Await further instructions." The subsequent "instructions" increasingly ask the assembled family to do things they're uncomfortable with, though some are more comfortable following orders than others.


AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS review

What follows is a thinly veiled Brexit analogy, with little Englander Tony insisting on following every command that comes from the TV. Joining his side are Granddad, daughter Kate and her meathead boyfriend Scott (Kris Saddler), and somewhat reluctantly, his wife Beth. On the opposing side are Nick and Annji, who insist on thinking things through before blindly obeying whatever entity is instructing them.

In this manner, I suspect Await Further Instructions isn't all too distanced from how a lot of British family gatherings will play out this Christmas. The assembled characters may be largely stereotypes, but the actors do enough to make them feel like real people, and their ideological bickering initially makes for compelling viewing.


AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS review

As the scenario escalates, there comes a point where things get a little silly, and I stopped believing in the over the top actions of characters I had been invested in up to that point. Annji, the character we can most easily empathise with, is shoved aside for her far less interesting boyfriend to take centre stage. Had Annji been made the film's central protagonist, Kevorkian might find his film being described as Britain's answer to Get Out. For all its timely depictions of our current culture wars, the film's ultimate message is as outdated as the bulky CRT television sets that adorn the Milgrams' home.

Await Further Instructions is in UK cinemas and on VOD December 7th.


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