25th Aug2017

Frightfest 2017: ‘Freehold’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Mim Shaikh, Javier Botet, Mandeep Dhillon, Kola Bokinni, Michael McKell | Written by Dominic Bridges, Rae Brunton | Directed by Dominic Bridges

Freehold-2-frightfest2017

The feature debut from acclaimed commercials director Dom Bridges and written by Rae Brunton (the Outpost franchise) Freehold is a dark urban morality tale with an underlying streak of jet black comedy. Hussein, a wide-boy estate agent, doesn’t realise he’s sharing his apartment with a forgotten stranger, a master of concealment… until his malicious campaign of deranged sweet revenge starts to really hit home. A roof above our heads is a basic human need so why are we all fighting each other over it?

Originally titled 2Pigeons (a title that has more in common with the films story than you can imagine), Freehold shares a lot in common with previous Frightfest flicks Housebound and Hangman, in so much as all three films deal with homes being encroached on by hidden intruders – though Dominic Bridges’ film says more about social class and current affairs in England than any foreign horror could. Freehold perfectly touches on the housing crisis in London: the rises in rent, the ever-shrinking properties you actually get for your money, how this leads to a rise in foreclosures, repossessions and financial woes. And how some are more than willing to profit from this misery.

Director Dom Bridges makes fantastic use of visuals within Freehold. From the silhouette of Javier Botet’s intruder Orlan, to the subdued lighting and the stunning use of shadow, the film creates it’s own little, eerie world inside Hussein’s flat. And even when outsiders dare to venture to his abode, shown perfectly in the scene in which Hussein’s mobility scooter riding drug dealer arrives to drop off the “goods”, the odd visuals are amplified even further – almost as if this world is not real, existing in the spaces between, much like Orlan does inside Hussein’s flat. The only sparks of the “reality” are the two pigeons Orlan watches out of the window, narrating his story as their story, offering some insight into his fractured psyche and the underlying reason for his vengeance on Hussein.

Freehold builds a creepy, skin-crawling sense of dread from the get-go, thanks to the melancholy soundtrack and the work of Javier Botet (The Conjuring 2, Mama). Appearing eerily from behind Hussein’s bedroom door in the movies opening, Botet’s reign of terror over the film starts out small and builds into a crescendo of gross-out scenes as human “ghost” Orlan goes from wiping his junk with Hussein’s facecloth to mixing his shampoo with bleach and, urgh, replacing the mouthwash he uses with his own saliva! The subtle way in which Orlan encroaches on Hussein’s life is actually a [dark] joy to watch, slowly becoming more and more horrific and more and more brazen, yet somehow still being darkly hilarious. Yes it’s here where the visual horror lies, but it’s the morality of the situation that is the true horror of Freehold.

I’m not going to lie, a film made by someone only experienced in commercials and co-written with a writer who’s know for the Outpost(!) franchise did not strike confidence in me; in fact it was only the appearance of the superb Javier Botet, the genius behind the titular Mama and The Crooked Man in The Conjuring 2, that garnered my initial interest. But that’s the thing about Frightfest – there’s always surprises, films you didn’t expect to like but turn out to be unexpected gems. And Freehold is one such film.

Prescient, powerful and pensive, Freehold is the latest in a long line of stunning modern British horrors to grace Frightfest and as such is unmissable.

**** 4/5

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