Director: Johnny Kevorkian
Cast: Sam Gittins, Neerja Naik, Grant Masters, Abigail Cruttenden, Kris Saddler, Holly Weston, David Bradley
Watch Await Further Instructions online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Await further instructions. Those are the three words that greet the Milgram family, as they gather for their Christmas celebrations. Appearing on the TV set, it has the comforting familiarity of a trusted living room object, and the unsettling terror of something alien intruding upon a safe space. Is it a government broadcast following an incident? Or something more sinister? Without knowing either way, the family (whose name recalls the experiments by social psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s) do what they’re told.
The result is a wonderfully knife-twisting thriller, all the more so because director Johnny Kevorkian takes his time to introduce this foreign instructor – and escalate the orders it gives. Before the TV has even started to issue demands, we’ve gotten to see the family in action. We begin with the sympathetic Nick (Sam Gittings) and his girlfriend, Annji (Neera Nik), who joins him as he goes home for the holidays for the first time in years, much to the dismay from his racist grandad (David Bradley), whose disapproval of Nick’s partner sends ripples of disorder through his bullying father (Grant Masters), peace-keeper mother (Abigail Cruttenden), pregnant sister (Holly Weston) and her hot-headed husband (Kris Saddler).
With his grandad still barking offensive comments, and the man of the house attempting to hold on to some control, the chance to instead align themselves with another sovereignty holds an insidious appeal – the toxic consequences of a failing patriarchy gasping its final breaths, as a younger, progressive generation grows into its own.
All of these tensions are amplified by the fact that nobody can leave the house. “Stay indoors,” says the TV, declining to mention the fact that the whole building has been surrounded by some kind of mysterious, metallic substance. As the clan start to prod and test the nature of their prison, injuries begin to spread, and arguments boil over – there’s a distinctly British sensibility to the way Gavin Williams’ script blends familial abuse and kitchen sink politics with something more supernatural. The cast snipe at each other with a convincing anti-chemistry, while Kevorkian cuts those spiky interactions with a touch of body horror.
But the majority of the runtime is taking up by, well, waiting. Released in the run-up to Christmas, a period of preparation, there’s a creepily perverse touch of the nativity story to this tale of awaiting some advent of a divine authority. Fused with a hint of satire over the command the hallowed gogglebox has over our lives, casting green and red lighting over the scared faces that can’t look away, this is a wiry, gripping horror – a nightmarish fable of distrust, dysfunction and the dominance of media that wraps its cables around you and doesn’t let go.
Await Further Instructions is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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