Family Christmases are fraught at the best of times, particularly when there’s a new member being introduced to the clan and that pressure cooker situation we’re all familiar with is the perfect setting for this very British slice of sci-fi horror.
The Milgrams are your average middle-class family and are being joined for the Yuletide celebrations by prodigal son Nick (Gittins), who is returning for the first time in several years. He’s also bringing his new girlfriend, Annji (Naik) and he’s already apprehensive about the reception she’ll get. Tony (Masters), his father, is locked away in his study and will say hello ‘in his own time’, his heavily pregnant sister Kate (Weston) and her more brawn-than-brains husband Scott (Sadler) have an air of superiority, while Grandad (Bradley) is a nasty throwback, revelling in the turmoil caused by his prejudice. Mother (Cruttenden) is timidly trying her best to keep everything together. Within minutes of arriving, his suspicions are proved as the family’s reaction to Annji ranges from awkward glances to downright racism. It’s all too much for Nick and he decides they will leave in the morning. Come the dawn, however, and the pair finds that the house has been sealed by a black impenetrable substance.
Tensions mount as their only contact with the outside world is messages delivered through the television. They assume it’s a government emergency system and that there’s been a terrorist incident. From the ominous first instruction to await further instructions, they are then given orders that oddly seem to follow the mood within the gathering and push the relationships even further apart.
Gavin Williams’ script has managed to pre-empt so much of the division and bias that we see in today’s society and skilfully focuses it back on the root problem: hereditary abuse and toxic masculinity. Tony is desperate to convey his position as master of the house, despite being constantly undermined and bullied by his own repulsive father (a superb turn by David Bradley), but he instantly and blindly follows the directions seen on the TV as he assumes whoever is sending them must know best. In doing so, he literally becomes a puppet for a system that it destroying them and all they hold dear.
The internal struggle within the household boils over as the commands become increasingly sinister and cryptic (at one point, they are told to isolate an infected one of their number, leading them to turn on Annji further as she arrived with the sniffles), before eventually devolving into an orgy of chaos and violence.
Superbly shot by cinematographer Annika Summerson, it’s almost unbearably claustrophobic and once the suitably OTT climax arrives, everything takes a Cronenbergian/Lovecraft turn, evoking memories of Videodrome and Richard Stanley’s Hardware. It’s perfect anti-Christmas viewing, subverting the nativity, tradition, and heritage equally, and will hopefully have audiences questioning what they are told by the idiot box in future.
AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: JOHNNY KEVORKIAN / SCREENPLAY: GAVIN WILLIAMS / STARRING: SAM GITTINS, NEERJA NAIK, GRANT MASTERS, DAVID BRADLEY, ABIGAIL CRUTTENDEN, HOLLY WESTON, KRIS SADDLER / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 7TH