It's Christmas Day and the Milgram family wake to find a mysterious black substance surrounding their house. Something monumental is clearly happening right outside their door, but what exactly - an industrial accident, a terrorist attack, nuclear war? Descending into terrified arguments, they turn on the television, desperate for any information. On screen a message glows ominously: 'Stay Indoors and Await Further Instructions'. As the television exerts an ever more sinister grip, their paranoia escalates into bloody carnage.
Critique de Matt
“Await Further Instructions” starts as a Christmas movie. If you add the presence of David Bradley in the cast and the flashy colors from the director of photography Annika Summerson, it could easily be the start of a Doctor Who Christmas special. It has some of the same vintage touches with the messages through the TV and the English countryside setup, but it lacks the charm and the epicness of any TimeLord.
Director Johnny Kevorkian got his directorial debut in 2008, “The Disappeared”, a modern ghost story involving two brothers, distributed by IFC. He is back now in the same genre with a larger family setup involving three generations. The goal seems to be giving you the chills, and to sparkle interest with a mysterious menace. Neither ever work because of a bad writing at many levels. Independent movies with one location have become a recipe as much as a necessity. Sometimes it work, sometimes it doesn’t. It is kind of sad the Johnny Kevorkian seems to repeat existing formulas without trying to emerge as a director. Could he have done that ? Not granted, as he original sin of the movie is its script, and its palette of cliche characters without any depth.
The grandfather is as every grandpa you’ve ever seen : grumpy, old, nasty, racist. His son, likely traumatised is forcing his position as the family leader, literally threatening everyone including his wife, under the pretext the he wants to save everyone. The son tries to connect back with his family, bringing with him his girlfriend. But as she looks from another continent, she’ll become the target of the grandfather. The daughter is like every awful inconsistent female character in every poor movie, here see her flanked with a boyfriend even dumber than her, under the immediate influence of the father with no plausible reason.
Let’s jump to the story herself. This family is about to spend a re-united Christmas with everyone around the table. Yes it is going to be bumpy with everyone being narrow minded, but everyone wants to give it a try at first. In the morning, the inhabitants find the whole house to be sealed from the outside. Pause here. If the movie had provided with ridiculous but funny characters (let’s think Tremors), this could be an awesome premise heading for a funny ride with a final explanation.
But nothing of that. Every decision every character makes is irrelevant, improbable, not plausible. Worse : nothing is made for the audience to accept the setup. Back to the example of “Doctor Who” : to many, the series is just ridiculous, Z-Movie looking and very ‘grotesque’. Same was for the original ‘Star-Trek’. Same for ‘The Prisoner’… But all of this shows have one strong suit : the set up a universe, an ambiance, a world of their own and invite you into it. If you decide to make the jump, it’s going to be a hell of a ride. Because you’ve been explained where you were going, and because you’ve been invited into it. If you come along, you’ve accepted the rules and you can play the game.
Await Further Instructions plays with the codes of many other movies in the same genre but never creates its own identity. You remain a watcher and nothing else. Stuck inside their own house, the characters receive messages through the TV screen, and objects through the fireplace. Again, put it another way, you could easily turn it into a criticism of the current society : it’s just a lazy choice to have the characters blindly follow instructions. With no explanation, no information about the facts and what is happening, how can the characters so easily accept to wash themselves with bleach, inject something in their bodies, stop eating… As an audience, you can like or dislike or feel neutral to a character on screen. Whatever, you need to be able to understand why they do, why their react this way and best case scenario ; what would you do if you were in their spot ? In this perspective, Await Further Instructions is a collection of narrative mistakes that prevent you from being able to dive into the movie, even for what it is.
- Note de Matt: 2.5