31st Aug2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘Awaiting’ Review

by Mark Allen

Starring: Tony Curran, Diana Vickers, Rupert Hill, Sophie Lovell Anderson, Peter Woodward, Adrian Bouchet, Charley McDougal | Written and Directed by Mark Murphyawaiting-image

 

It’s grim up north. Or so many British horror films would have you believe. If you’re travelling across the Yorkshire Moors you damn well better not be travelling alone or – heaven forbid – at night, otherwise your loved ones will be identifying your half-digested remains found in the woods outside Northallerton. You’d think people would have learned this lesson by now, but commuting businessman Jake (Rupert Hill) appears to be a slow learner. After a freak road accident he wakes up in the rural home of Morris (an unhinged Tony Curran) and his sheltered daughter Lauren (pop star Diana Vickers) and attempts to leave so that he can attend an ill-defined but ultra-important “business meeting” and, oh yeah, propose to his girlfriend.

This is easier said than done, however, as both father and daughter seem intent on keeping Jake around. Lauren, having spent very little time in the company of men she isn’t related to, is fascinated by the newcomer, despite his arrogant and shitty attitude towards her. Morris, on the other hand, takes offence at disrespect shown towards him and a perceived lust towards his beloved daughter, and prevents Jake from leaving by hiding his keys, phone, and eventually tying him to a chair. All are equally effective, it seems, and as our rather unsympathetic hero spends more time with a dysfunctional family that would give Wes Anderson nightmares he discovers that things are even worse than they already seem…

If you’re a fan of backwoods horror or even Stephen King, you’ve seen Awaiting before. The film is a platter of well-trodden horror tropes: the unwilling and eventually tortured guest of King’s Misery; the psychotic bumpkin with a literal axe to grind; a sympathetic relative of the villain who eventually switches allegiances, but far too late to do any good; and, of course, “Secrets In The Basement”.

All of these would be fine enough if they were part of a story that felt like it was trying to do anything but horrify. Granted, this is a horror movie – and it executes its scares and gore with gusto for a low-budget production – but when was the last time you saw a decent horror film that was just horror? There appears to be very little subtext other than, well, family values (with a dash of incest to spice things up), and it all feels like ground that’s been covered pretty steadily since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I suspect Awaiting‘s aware of its own shortcomings, as it conjures up a twist ending that has little bearing on what’s come before and everything to do with similar, more successful films in the hope of seeming profound or at the very least unsettling. I just groaned.

Things might have run smoother if I’d been interested in any of the characters, but Morris is a breed of limb-removing psychopath I’ve seen one too many times before, and Jake is a difficult man to root for. Right from the beginning he’s instantly mistrustful of both father and daughter and lacks any kind of charm or humour that might endear us to him. The fact that he curses out the mostly innocent Lauren before abruptly deciding to ‘save’ her does his characterisation no favours either. It’s down to Vickers to be the sole sympathetic voice, and while she gives her all as a young woman caught in arrested emotional development, she’s hamstrung – like everyone else – by the hackneyed dialogue seemingly ripped from the worst 1980s blockbusters. “Don’t give up on me now, dammit!” After lines like that it’s hard to take seriously much of what happens on screen.

Strong enough on most production levels (other than the score, which veers histrionically from genre to genre with unintended comic effect), Awaiting is seriously let down by its lack of creativity. But this is a FrightFest film, so if all you want from your evening is to get drunk and watch some horrible things happen on screen for 90 minutes, this might be the one for you. Dig in!

** 2/5

Awaiting is playing Film4 Frightfest on Monday 31st August at 4.00pm in In Discovery Screen 1.

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One Response to “Frightfest 2015: ‘Awaiting’ Review”

  • Dalriada35

    I largely agree with this review. It was disappointing to see Tony Curran in such an awful film. Diana Vickers’ performance was truly awful. I would willingly rip out my eyes before watching her attempt to act again. The premise and the development of it was poor despite the relatively sound production values. The script was dire in places. The soundtrack overblown. This film thought it was creating horror legend when it was, in fact, as far from that as could possibly be.