Low-budget genre films, namely horror and sci-fi, live or die based on their basic concept. Await Further Instructions has a great premise; a broken family gathers at Christmas for the first time in years. Upon waking in the morning, they find the house sealed by a mysterious black substance, all electronic devices disconnected from the outside world and the family television prompting them to follow it’s every instruction.
This should lead to an intriguing plot, especially when paired with the first-act family conflict, highlighting everything from racism to toxic masculinity within a small working-class household. Unfortunately, the half-baked ideas and non-committal attempt at social commentary overpower any tension and sense of mystery.
With a low-budget film, the cast is key as the script naturally has to focus a lot on building character and following those characters’ reactions to the ‘out of the ordinary’ happenings around them. For the most part though, the acting within this film stands out for all the wrong reasons and at times becomes a bit of a distraction. Sam Gittins leads the cast as Nick, whose dysfunctional family he is visiting with his girlfriend Annji, played by Neerja Naik, who is meeting them for the first time. Both actors are actually shining lights across the runtime, playing the couple with believable chemistry when needed and delivering decent enough performances individually. The rest of the cast, however, don’t quite manage as well with the badly written dialogue, with most of the family coming across as wooden, albeit with brief moments of personality peeking through.
Luckily the runtime sits at a minimal 90 minutes, although even this feels slightly bloated and padded at times. The core idea is there, full of so much potential, but the execution is often nonsensical, and events seem to be written in just to spill blood without any thought to the wider plot. Once the final reveal comes around, the actions of the antagonist don’t quite fit together with their supposed motives.
As the tension climbs and paranoia rises towards the end, it looked like the film could redeem itself with a decent twist or at least a satisfying ending, but instead it devolves into a mess of plot holes, poor special effects and an overall anti-climax.
The greatest science fiction and horror stories are twisted metaphors for the current concerns and fears within the real world. That’s exactly what ‘Await Further Instructions’ tries to be, channelling an era of fake news and political paranoia, but the execution pushes a great (albeit slightly on-the-nose) concept into B-movie hell. The filmmakers didn’t seem brave enough to commit to the conflicts or their own metaphors, leaving a pretty lifeless sci-fi story that slowly limps toward an anti-climactic ending.
Jordan Duguid | ★½
Sci-Fi, Horror | 15 | UK 2018 | 07 December 2018 | VOD | Dark Sky Films | Dir. Johnny Kevorkian | Sam Gittins, Neerja Naik, David Bradley