A family awaken on Christmas morning to see that they’re trapped in their home. Mysterious black shutters have appeared on the doors and windows overnight, leaving them forced to confront a host of issues that paint them as less than perfect.
Await Further Instructions is an imperfect exploration of a family’s ignorance and blind following of orders. In many ways it’s as smart as it wants you to believe as it further provides a timely comment on society’s reliance on the media and the problems that arise when we forget to question what we hear on the radio, read on the internet or see on TV. However, questions like these have been raised before and Await Further Instruction‘s message may be a positive one, but it’s not something we haven’t heard before.
The nicely-named Milgram family live on the also nicely-named Stanford Street. These are neat – if a little obvious – touches that invite the audience to work out what’s going on. Await Further Instructions does try very hard to be smart and meaningful and even if it doesn’t entirely hit the mark, it stills earns some praise. It’s a confident endeavour from director Johnny Kevorkin and impressive visual flourishes make it exciting to ponder what he could do with a bigger budget and a better cast of actors.
A Christmas Day horror film setting is always a favourite of mine, so it was a shame to see this film not take advantage of the festive potential it had at its finger tips. Despite some sci-fi-friendly bright lighting choices, I wondered why the film chose to be set at Christmas at all; except to have an excuse for the entire family to be together. The more the film progresses, the more the day of the year becomes irrelevant. Without a monster in the midst of things or a slasher killer to wreak a bloody havoc, there becomes no way for the story to use the most wonderful day of the year in a way that is either fun or scary.
The first half of the film sets up the family as, mainly, a bunch of idiots. The father and grandfather are racist, the son and his girlfriend are also a bit racist, BUT the other son is dating a girl of Indian descent. Played by Neerja Naik, Annji is the only person in the family who has any sense and she’s not white, get it? She’s smart and she’s a doctor, but she’s shunned because a terrorist attack is being broadcast on TV. I bet you can tell where this is all going. It’s a positive message, an education in promoting equality and an attempt at dismissing an arrogance that is undeniably still present, but it’s as subtle as a brick.
I became more invested the longer the story went on, forgiving the film’s slow start and obvious messages when the television started to tell them what to do. Not LITERALLY, but messages like “the food is contaminated, throw it all away” and “wash yourselves with bleach” start popping up from the supposed “government”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go full David Cronenberg, but by the end, it becomes even clearer that he was an influence on this smart little indie flick.
Await Further Instructions is a worthwhile, if not completely unique sci-fi-horror. It’s let down by a slow pace and over-meandering story, but the final act is a good one and we can never have too many films that want to teach us societal lessons. Can we?