If you’ve been following me for a few years, you know that I’m a big fan of the short films that FATAL PICTURES has been putting out. Both WORM and FAMILIAR were two short films that impressed me (CHECK OUT THOSE HYPER-LINKS) and after each viewing was over I was sitting there saying, “How can they top this?” Richard Powell, who directed and wrote FAMILIAR and WORM, has a knack for not only pushing the limits of body-horror but also providing substantial subtext to chew on. That’s what I want from horror. I want the trappings of horror combined with meaning and intelligence. Powell knows how to do that. His films are supported by actor Robert Nolan who adds a layer of conviction to the script. Nolan is on the same wavelength as Powell in terms of how to accurately portray material that is difficult for viewer to watch at times. Behind all of these guys is Zach Green who has worked his ass off producing these films and reaching out to anyone who likes good movies. I’m not trying to talk this team up because I genuinely love the films this team has put together. And you guys do know I’m a tough critic on everything, right?
Robert Powell’s latest short film is HEIR and he has collaborated with Robert Nolan again to dive into dark and uncomfortable trenches. HEIR is essentially about abuse and what will turn some heads is that this deals specifically with child-abuse. HEIR starts with a brief email exchange between a father named Gordon (Nolan) and stranger (Bill Oberst Jr.). Gordan takes his son Paul with him to meet this stranger where both men deal with their secret passion. HEIR develops, in its thirteen minute runtime, into a fantastical monster film that plays off the term “monster” in a few ways. It rattles you while making you cover your mouth to stop the vomit from erupting out of it.
The strongest part of HEIR, like the previous films from Powell, is that there is a subtly to the material. There really isn’t time for much exposition and it works for Powell. The world of HEIR is given to you in snippets and that’s all you need because the character’s dilemma is what’s important. Dread is the ultimate feeling you get when you begin HEIR. The viewer is aware that something terrible is in store for the boy but how far will HEIR go? You have to stick it out to see for yourself.
HEIR is held together by Nolan’s portrayal of Gordon – a father who is tortured by his vice and sin. Nolan accurately portrays someone who wants to engage in sexual deviance but also knows that it’s completely wrong. The internal battle is shown in Nolan’s action and expression throughout. His performance is matched by Oberst’s disgusting character who wants to do nothing but feed his ID, as Freud would say. “Creepy” is a bit of an understatement when used to describe the stranger’s presence on screen. His need for the boy goes from morbid curiosity to abject horror in a matter of minutes.
HEIR is terrifying in ways that rattle a person to their most inner core, their inner-child. HEIR is hard to watch at times but the art is strong enough to provide a message with the horror. This is not a case of shock-horror, it has a point, and horror needs more of that.
HEIR will premiere at Fantasia this year in Montreal. If you won’t be there and can’t wait to see Powell’s work, check out FAMILIAR on iTunes. That shit will get under your skin, too!