Review: Familiar (2012)
Editors Note: Familiar has upcoming screenings at ChicagoFearFest April 13-14 , Texas Frightmare Weekend May 4,5,6 and Dark Bridges Film Festival May 3-6
I think we all carry that little nagging voice in the back of our minds that tells us that we aren’t good enough, we’re only fooling ourselves, everyone is out to get us or some such variety of self-doubt to various degrees of potency. Familiar takes that nagging voice and manifests it as a physical entity, in the fine Canadian tradition of Cronenberg’ian body horror. If only the pain and existential turmoil that plague us through our lives could be manifested physically so that we could purge it for good. It might be a hell of a lot easier than listening to it nagging at the back of our minds, second-guessing our every decision and acting as an introspective foe as it pushes us to act in ways that are seemingly contrary to our nature, but are likely our most honest primal instincts at work.
The only way that a person can stand out in such environments is through the suppressed rage that finds its window through the eyes of the everyman as his facial twitches betray the outward appearances that everything is OK.
Familiar is well shot, traversing its drab suburban landscapes in slow tracking shots that offer little in the way of visual information, but succinctly capture the banality of our protagonist’s drab existence. Characters seem to blend in to their surroundings as their clothing choices work with the drab color pallet of the film to create a perfect camouflage of contemporary ubiquity. The only way that a person can stand out in such environments is through the suppressed rage that finds its window through the eyes of the everyman as his facial twitches betray the outward appearances that everything is OK. The voiceover narration fills in the missing pieces, but detracts slightly from the power of the underplayed performance. I think that the emotional undercurrent was apparent without expositionary narration, but the narration also works toward setting the tone and builds to a crescendo of inner-conflict that can only resolve itself in an act of horrific violence.
Characters seem to blend in to their surroundings as their clothing choices work with the drab color pallet of the film to create a perfect camouflage of contemporary ubiquity.
When the film’s undercurrent of rage reaches its crescendo, the visual effects are visceral and unflinching, while maintaining a sense of realism within the context of the film. The camera looks away when it is appropriate to do so, and looks on with uninterrupted objectivity when the film reaches its peak. The practical effects are not played for cheap scares, nor do they appear to be surreptitiously inserted to showcase the abilities of the special effects department, which is often a failing in smaller films such as this one. It shows only what is appropriate to be shown, and tells its simple tale effectively and without unnecessary exploitative jump scares.
Familiar is an effective little short film that shows the promise of the folks over at Fatal Pictures. They seem to have a great handle on creating a uniform aesthetic, as the color choices, depth of field, and subtle use of reflections all work toward creating the appropriate atmosphere. It isn’t a story that hasn’t been told before, but these guys have managed to execute their short story adeptly and with a solid understanding of what they set out to accomplish. Performances are underplayed nicely, and one is able to sense the palpable rage running at the undercurrent of our protagonist through Robert Nolan’s use of eye movements and quiet restraint. The voiceover narration may be slightly heavy-handed for my personal taste, but it only becomes distracting for a few brief moments. Familiar is worth a look, and showcases some cinematic promise that I hope the filmmakers at Fatal Pictures will be given the chance to execute in a larger arena soon.