I’m back again with another movie review for, writer/director Richard Powell and producer Zach Green of Fatal Pictures. Thanks again to Zach, for providing me with an online screener of their latest 23 minute short film “Familiar”. I recently reviewed their 2010 short film “Worm”, I was thoroughly impressed by it and have been hoping to get my hands on anything else they’ve done. Now I’m just waiting on “Consumption” and “Heir” (haha). Familiar is about middle-aged man named John Dodd (played by Robert Nolan), who through a series of unfortunate events begins to suspect the internalized negativity plaguing his mind, is not his own. The film also stars Astrida Auza and Cat Hostick.
As per usual I’ll start with some of the technical aspects. From the outset, Richard utilizes a lot of smooth camera panning and precise shot choices. I’m convinced he knows exactly how to frame a shot, and how to structure each scene in order to get the most out of everything in the frame, it’s a real treat. Both the editing and the lighting are extremely effective in this one, everything has that outward feel to accompany the tone of this psychological short. On top of it all, the audio is crystal clear and the second half contains an eerie score that I loved. I was surprised at the direction it took during the climax of the film. That last act had some unique and creative prosthetics, as well as plenty of practical effects, and not just with the blood (those of you who have seen it know what I mean). I was already enjoying the film anyway, but those last five or six minutes elevated this into a league of its own.
This is all about Nolan, much like the previous “Worm” it simply doesn’t work without him. I take it back, I don’t need to see anymore of his work to know that I really like him and rate him as an actor. These psychological deconstructs suit him down to a T. Most of this performance is conveyed through his facial expressions, and the way his eyes project what he’s feeling. I mentioned in my last review how his articulation goes hand in hand with narration. Once again he’s spot on with it, and you know you have a great film when it would work just as well without any externalized dialogue. Obviously it goes without saying, when something is written as clear-cut and intelligently as Familiar is, it makes the job of the actors that bit easier. It’s funny, while watching this I kept thinking damn Robert is basically playing the exact same character from Worm (haha). I started thinking maybe this was a follow-up, plus it parallels the core narrative of the already mentioned. Sure enough, John Dodd is Geoffrey Dodd’s (character from Worm) twin brother, I thought that was a nice little touch.
I’m not blowing smoke here at all, I’m genuinely struggling to find anything to write in this section. I think this is as close to a perfect short film as you’ll find. I’ll say one thing, just because I can’t leave this blank (it’s like a OCD thing haha). I would like to see Robert (or should I say a future character of his), break the fourth wall at some point. One of my favorite film’s is Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games”. I can see a slight resemblance between what Richard has done with the Dodd brothers and FG, minus the home invasion aspect of course. I hope Powell revisits this world, because you could psycho analyze these men until the cows come home, there’s that much to work with here. Talking directly to us would be a great way to help the viewer understand more about why they think what they think, and Is the world really out to get them? You make up your mind.
There’s no two ways about it, I’m simply blown away by how good Familiar was. It’s technically flawless, Nolan is a powerhouse as both Dodd’s and the writing is as good as anything in the business. I can’t praise Richard Powell and Zach Green enough. From what I can see there isn’t a hard-copy of this available yet, but if and when there is, I’m the first in line for a copy and you should be too. I’m intrigued by the idea of split personalities, and an existential crisis that’s being dissected out loud for the benefit of the audience. This is a mix up of a lot of my favorite films but still manages to maintain a freshness, I think of such films as “Naked Lunch”, “Spider” and “The Fly”. I think Powell has that type of flare when it comes to innovation and it’s going to take him a long way in the industry.
My rating for “Familiar” is 9.5/10 (for those who are interested I think this is a first)