Strange days are ahead for rookie copper Rebecca Faraway (Sarah Beck Mather) when the murder of a security guard sets her on the trail of a serial killer. Already isolated among her macho plod colleagues, Faraway’s paranoia spirals into hallucination and bloody terror when her main suspect turns the tables.
Despite kicking off with a title sequence that’s a dead ringer for the opening of Repulsion (1965) and taking a very Polanski-esque approach to its cinematography, Charismata avoids the full-blown tribute route favoured by the recent likes of Mickey Keating’s Darling (2015). Instead the film playfully mixes police procedural with Satanism, Se7en, Ash vs Evil Dead and even good old Herschell Gordon Lewis while retaining, at its heart, a very British flavour.
With a tonal pub quiz like that, solid acting chops are required which is where many a low budget movie comes a cropper. Luckily, co-directors Collier and Mian have cast wisely. Sarah Beck Mather is a captivating lead; from the Jane Tennison steel of her investigation scenes to losing her marbles throughout the final act, there’s a compelling, nervous intensity to her performance that kicks the whole thing up a notch. And with such genre essentials as nudity (there’s a memorably erotic dream sequence), hallucination, torture and raving insanity to contend with alongside frequent close-ups on her hauntingly expressive eyes, she passes the scream queen test with distinction. Adonis Anthony’s deadpan comic swagger as her police partner Eli Smith offsets Faraway’s seriousness perfectly and Jamie Satterthwaite’s villain Michael Sweet is a classic English bounder, cooking up hell in his modern-day hellfire club. Satterthwaite devours the scenery with relish, exuding the same malevolent delight in his own villainy that Peters Bowles and Wyngarde used to bring to 1960s Avengers episodes.
Behind the camera, Charismata belies its budget with atmospheric music from Chris Roe and cinematography from Fernando Ruiz that would not disgrace many a studio effort. Night scenes and hallucination sequences are particularly accomplished and the effects – including a priceless nod to Blood Feast – benefit from being largely realised in-camera.
It doesn’t all hang together. A sub-plot involving Faraway’s father feels tacked on and overly soapy for such knowing material and at 100 minutes running time, there’s a Roger Corman-style 85-minute version trying to punch its way through some rather static police station scenes and witness interviews. But Beck Mather is superb and the co-directors’ deep affection for the genre results in a potent cocktail of horror and black comedy that cuts a bloody dash.
CHARISMATA / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR: ANDY COLLIER AND TOOR MIAN / SCREENPLAY: ANDY COLLIER AND TOOR MIAN / STARRING: SARAH BECK MATHER, ADONIS ANTHONY, JAMIE SATTERTHWAITE, JONNY VIVASH / RELEASE DATE: TBC