NEFARIOUS / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: / SCREENPLAY: MATTHEW DAVIES, RICHARD ROWNTREE / STARRING: JON VANGDAL AAMAAS, TONY SANDS, TOBY WYNN-DAVIES, NADIA LANIN / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Nefarious begins with a prolonged start sequence, flashing graphics in your face until it finally cuts to a blackened room with two police officers interviewing a suspect in what feels like a theatre production. So far so bad, especially as it’s hard to tell the genre. Are we in a British Gangster movie, or is something else going on? Luckily, the film does pick up and, when we reach true horror territory, there is actually quite a bit to enjoy.
Nefarious uses the police interview scenario as a narrative structure throughout the film, quite cleverly using bit-part characters to tell the story. We are introduced to Darren and Lou, who are surviving in a sparsely populated flat on a council estate. Darren has a menial job while Lou prefers to spend her days in a drug-fueled haze. When Darren discovers that Lou owes their local drug dealer two grand, he also discovers that their fellow flat mate Jo, cleans for Darren's mentally-challenged co-worker Clive’s wealthy brother. On top of that, Clive has recently won big on a scratch card. Clearly the only thing to do is rob their house. What could go wrong?! The involvement of the police means it isn’t going to end well, however the final act reveal is genuinely well done, with a couple of twists for good measure.
Apart from a couple of pieces of clumsy foreshadowing, it is hard to tell that we're watching a horror movie, feeling more like a script that Danny Dyer turned down. It wants to surprise the audience, but it feels like such a struggle to get there. A film with a running time of 1 hour and 10 minutes desperately needs to get on with things, but one too many police interviews and a whole section of Darren and co. walking around Clive’s garden in complete darkness really start to try your patience. It feels like director Richard Rowntree, who has a decent cameo as a taxi driver, was influenced by films like From Dusk Till Dawn, which gleefully flips its genre half way through to really subvert audience’s expectations. Nefarious doesn’t manage to do this but, when it does stray into the horror genre, it really comes alive - once the shackles are off, we experience well-shot and well-executed scenes that keep you gripped.
British horror is wildly under-represented, so any new player is welcomed. Rowntree (who was part of the art department on Ex_Machina) and his writing partner Matthew Davies (who also wrote 2017’s Dogged with Rowntree) have a lot of potential and, with the right backing, could produce some exciting horror in the coming years, but Nefarious feels like a show reel of what could be achieved in the future.