Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Horror Short Review: Familiar (2011)

Oh my freaking goodness, I think I just had a goshdarn heart attack.

And if you ever get a chance to see this amazing horror short called Familiar, then I'm pretty sure that you will too. This was literally some of the best twenty minutes of filmmaking that I have seen in a while and I only wish that I had filmed myself watching it. I've always believed that the best horror films are the ones that make you have those unconscious physical reactions to what you are seeing, and hoo doggy, I reacted so hard to this thing that my heart is still palpitating a bit.

At the beginning of this short, the main character reminds me of a much darker version of Kevin Spacey's character from American Beauty. John Dodd's inner monologue is full of loathing for his monotonous and boring life, with a wife he doesn't love anymore and a daughter he can't wait to get rid of so he can have more freedom. But it's only after one life-altering conversation with his wife that John's inner voice suddenly changes to a voice that is not his, but somebody(thing?) else in his head talking to him. And then the fun starts.

Robert Nolan's portrayal of John is spectacular. He is subdued and almost non-expressive most of the time, but you can tell that there is a lot more going on behind the mask. The best performance of the piece, however, is the voiceover. The writing for this is excellent as well and at first sounds very normal and at times quite funny ("Oh, you're always on time? So are my bowel movements"). As the story progresses, the voice becomes more forceful and commanding, telling John how he should really feel about his wife's pregnancy and talking him into doing some pretty horrific things - like slipping pills into his wife's food to give her an abortion. After awhile the voice starts to sound almost inhuman with its level of craziness, and while John is able to resist it sometimes, it still holds a strong influence over him because deep down he apparently agrees with what it is telling him.

Now what I wasn't expecting here was some severe body horror images that freaked me the fuck out. John discovers one morning these weird bulges that almost look like little egg sacs growing out of his side. Anybody with a fear of death or disease (like me) will most definitely find this part disgusting and horrifying - the fact that something unknown is inside your body and is making freakish physical changes to it that you can't control. In Familiar, this situation only escalates further into John having to perform some hideous self-mutilation - another topic that people with a low tolerance for pain will find almost hard to stand.

The bulges on John's side disappear (all while the voice is telling him to leave it alone) and move down to his upper leg so naturally, John decides it will be a good idea to try to cut whatever is in there out. Using a box cutter, which also freaks me out because that is a tool that I use every day at work, John starts cutting into his leg and... well, I won't completely spoil it here, but let's just say that I almost wanted to cover my eyes and not see what was in there. Can you believe that?! This little horror short turned me into a total horror pussy. It was fantastic.

The special effects are Hollywood-level and quite impressive. Beautiful blood and makeup on John's bulges. The direction and editing are brilliant, and the performances were spot on. I'd also like to make a note about how much I liked the casting of Astrida Auza as John's wife because, and I don't want to sound mean here or anything, she is not particularly hot but rather normal looking, like the people I see every day. She was obviously chosen for her talent, and does a fantastic job.

Director Richard Powell really turned out something awesome here. Apparently this short was actually a sequel to another short film he made called Worm, which is not as graphic but stars John Dodd's brother, Geoffrey, as a man who also has a voice in his head. Would really love to get a look at that one too if it's possible. This is a filmmaker with some real talent who will no doubt bring us more horrific stories to enjoy in the future.


  1. I love, LOVE short horror films! I so need to check this one!

  2. Looks interesting, even though the poster kind of squicks me out.

  3. This is a great review! This movie sounds awesome and I can't wait to check it out for myself. :)

  4. Great review, Michele!
    Glad that you 'enjoyed' it that much :) Zach Green just sent me WORM - excited! Will watch it today, I hope it's about as brill as FAMILIAR.