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  Father of Flies Who Do You Want To Stay With?
Year: 2021
Director: Ben Charles Edwards
Stars: Nicholas Tucci, Camilla Rutherford, Davi Santos, Sandra Andreis, Page Ruth, Malik Ibheis, Colleen Heidemann, Carl Prekopp, Keaton Tetlow, Lida Fox
Genre: Horror, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: This family, like every family, has its problems, but for young Michael (Keaton Tetlow) those problems have become unbearable over recent weeks. He feels his mother Linda (Sandra Andreis) has been forced out of the family home, a cottage deep in the snowbound forest, to be replaced by Coral (Camilla Rutherford), an apparently English woman who he knows next to nothing about. Why would his father Richard (Nicholas Tucci) prefer her to his mother, who he has not seen since Coral moved in? It's not as if his older sister Donna (Page Ruth) is any happier about this situation, but she simply adapts by being surly and uncommunicative and trying to spend as much time out of the house as possible. But the stepmother has brought something with her...

Director and co-writer (with Nadia Doherty) Ben Charles Edwards based this film on his experiences as a child, where his mother had a breakdown and had to move away, with disturbing consequences for him as he attempted to cope. Not, you assume, that real life played out quite as it did in this horror movie, or at least you hope it didn't, as the fantastical impinged on the existence of little Michael with increasing aggression in a manner that suggests Edwards held a lot of issues himself, which you would be pleased to know whether this project exorcised. That said, by his own account this was a very tough film to make, especially because one of its stars, indie stalwart Nicholas Tucci, was dying of cancer throughout its production, and indeed passed away before it was released.

This might explain why the film was so brief, barely making it over the hour and a quarter mark, though they packed so much in that you admired the filmmakers' guts in managing to get as much as they could into the running time. There were echoes of other horror movies in certain scenes, but in the main this was applying itself to the "wicked stepmother" approach of the fairy tales of yore, evoking the distant past and its classic, stark archetypes to suggest some things stayed the same no matter what era they were in. Though, of course, the stepmother of the bowdlerised fairy tales was originally only the mother, and the character had been at one remove so as not to disturb the later generations of children too much, who did not wish to hear tales where the children's parents were trying to bump them off, and that was taken into account in this.

As we discover, Michael's mother has been banned from seeing him and his sister by some legal means, and when she shows up at the door demanding to be let in so she can visit her children, we don't know what to think: Richard comes across as cold as the weather for not allowing her in. However, as we discover there is a very good reason for the ban, as Linda is deeply troubled and is in fact a danger to the little boy, this all playing out over a night that grows more nightmarish with the clown on television apparently communicating with him via the elderly neighbour down the road and a creature under his bed that he must avoid. But even these are no match for Linda, who contrives to get him all to herself, with potentially deadly results. Obviously the results of a childhood that was a difficult one for all concerned, you did wonder if making a film about this was the best method of coping with the demons that plainly still hounded Edwards, particularly when according to him it was a hellish ordeal in itself, and not because he was reliving the ghosts of his early years, either. You ended this hoping it brought closure, and then wondered if that was not a pop psychology cliche. If it was or was not, he got a striking horror movie out of it.

[Father of Flies will have its UK Physical Premiere at Raindance Film Festival (6th Nov) with a general UK release in 2022.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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