FATHER OF FLIES **
Directed by Sion Sono.
Directed by Ben Charles Edwards.
Starring Camilla Rutherford, Keaton Tetlow, Page Ruth, Nicholas Tucci.
Horror, US/UK, 78 minutes,
Released On Demand in the UK 11th April by Goldfinch.
The wicked stepmother tale gets another spin in Ben Charles Edwards low budget film that attempts to give it a contemporary spin. Trading on the central image of the stepmother clad in a night robe and eerie blank plastic face mask, which is more than reminiscent of the French classic shocker LES YEUX SANS VISAGE, the film seems to aim for the elegant shocks of that film while grafting on supernatural elements that will also be familiar to anyone who has watched several 80’s genre classics.
The stepmother at the heart of matters here is Coral, an Englishwoman married to businessman Richard and kept at a distance by his teenage daughter Donna and young son Michael. Living in a remote house situated in a snow-covered forest, the tension the family is going through is immediately apparent. No love is lost between the children and their stepmother, with Michael picking wild flowers for his absent mother while Donna seems more interested in running off with her boyfriend than in making nice with her father’s new wife. After an incident involving their mother, Michael begins to suspect that a supernatural presence may be infesting the house due in no small part to Coral and it may have dark designs on himself and Donna.
A title like FATHER OF FLIES seems to promise something of a dark and occult nature. What you get instead is something that is foggy and confused. The slim premise is barely supported by a paper-thin storyline and characterisation that borders on the non-existent. Nothing really happens plot wise until half an hour in. Things do happen but in such a disjointed fashion that the viewer is kept guessing as to what the plot could be for most of the film. Elements are introduced in the first act that are never revisited again whilst others are never explained; other than being a creepy visual, the reason Coral wears the plastic face mask is never explained or even remarked upon by any of the characters in the film. Aside from being English there is no back story or reason why Coral is so despised by her stepchildren.
The most distinctive character to be found here is Colleen Heidemann as elderly neighbour Mrs Start. Looking like she’s wandered in from the nearest panto with her up swept white hair and extreme cataract, her supernatural nature is as obvious as her appearance is garish and frankly out of place in anything other than a children’s film. Despite the scripts shortcomings the actors do their best with what they must work with, especially Nicolas Tucci as husband and father Richard and to whom the film is dedicated after his untimely death from cancer in 2020 after filming.
There are riffs on familiar motifs (static screen televisions used as supernatural communicative devices and spooky clowns tormenting the young protagonist) that are nicely filmed but the whole thing literally comes to a crashing halt after just over seventy minutes. The abrupt conclusion is completely dissatisfying, feeling more like the end of a second act setting up its true climax than a proper ending. The disjointed storytelling and pacing make it feel much longer than its near eighty-minute running time is. As a story it fails but there are sparks of visual inventiveness and atmosphere that suggest that a stronger foundation script-wise could provide a more satisfying vehicle for Edwards directing career.