Horror Film Review: Await Further Instructions (dir by Johnny Kevorkian)

The 2018 film, Await Further Instructions, takes place in the United Kingdom during the Christmas season.  However, it tells a story that could take place anywhere and at any time.  That’s even more obvious today than when the film was first released.

A dysfunctional family has gathered for the holidays.  Nick (Sam Gittins) brings his girlfriend, Annji (Neerja Naik).  Nick’s sister, Kate (Holly Weston), is both pregnant and a racist.  She brings her husband, Scott (Kris Saddler).  Tony (Grant Masters) and Beth (Abigail Cruttendon) are the parents, trying to keep some sort of order as dinner is served.  Finally, Granddad (David Bradley) dislikes everyone as grandfathers are allowed to do.  Once someone reaches a certain age, bad behavior is casually dismissed as someone just having a bad day.

The family dinner is interrupted by reports of some sort of ill-defined disaster.  A dark substance appears to have surrounded the house, trapping them inside.  Bizarre messages start to appear on the television, telling the family to obey orders and to await further instructions.  Some members of the family dare to unplug the television, just for Tony quickly plug it back in.  Hypodermic needles are dropped through the chimney, along with a message that one of them is infected and that they have to take the vaccine if they’re going to survive.  Even after taking the shot leads to one member of the family vomiting to death, Tony continues to insist that everyone has to follow the instructions coming from the television.  The television accuses one of them being a sleeper agent.  The television demands a sacrifice.  The television warns of terrible consequences if its instructions are not followed.  Those who try to resist find themselves being attacked by the other members of the family.  “Worship me,” the television suggests at one point and much of the family is willing to do just that.

Await Further Instructions was made in 2018 but it’s a film that feels as if it was specifically made for the COVID era.  (I write this as someone who is voluntarily vaccinated and who is still more than happy to put on a mask if someone politely requests that I do so.)  While a good deal of the film’s horror does come from grotesque imagery and Cronenberg-style body horror, the reason why the film sticks with the viewer is because it perfectly captures the paranoid atmosphere that everyone has had to deal with over the past two years.  (Indeed, if this film had been made today, critics would probably say that the film was a bit too on the nose in its portrayal of people putting blind faith in instructions coming from unseen forces.)  Tony goes from being a slightly addled father to being a monster, precisely because that’s what he’s ordered to do and he doesn’t have the courage or the imagination to question why.  This is the story of a family that’s destroyed because they put more faith in authority than in their own common sense.  It’s a story about family that turns on itself because it’s ordered to do so.  It’s a story that feels very relevant today.  One need only read one of the thousands of self-pitying social media updates from people talking about how they’ve shut their families out of their lives to realize that many people, if they were in the same situation, would probably behave the same way that Tony behaves in this film.

By confining the action to one location, the film creates a visceral atmosphere of claustrophobia.  Even if the family could escape from the house, the viewer has to wonder if there’s anywhere left to go.  The film declines to make clear if the same horror is happening to the rest of the world or if it’s just concentrated on that one house.  Is everyone being told to await further instructions or is just that one family?  Await Further Instructions not only captures the horrors of blind conformity and overwhelming paranoia but also the horror of isolation and again, it’s hard not to feel that this 2018 film predicted the future.  For all the horrors of the COVID era, the isolation was the most psychologically damaging.  Families were destroyed.  Friendships were broken.  Faith in institutions was lost.  All while people were ordered to shut up and await further instructions.

Even more now than when it was first released, Await Further Instructions is a powerful and visceral horror film.

One response to “Horror Film Review: Await Further Instructions (dir by Johnny Kevorkian)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 9/26/22 — 10/2/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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