Competent but too familiar cult-based horror fails to leave much of an impression, despite some decent ideas.
Synopsis: A young family, living in isolation and forced into hard labor out of fear of dishonoring their Father and Mother, fight to free themselves from their religious cult.
The Family contains a line of dialogue in which a character reflects that what she remembered most of her indoctrination was ‘the mercy’. It is a line that perfectly encapsulates why troubled people may stay within the confines of a cult, even when the initial safety and comfort of the situation are long gone. The Family, as a film, understands and lays bare those dynamics. Unfortunately, this comes packaged as far too familiar, with too little to truly set it apart.
Caleb (Benjamin Charles Watson) belongs to a hyper-religious and strict community in which exhausting work in the fields is used as a method of control. After Elijah (Onyx Spark) falls ill due to his workload, Caleb starts to further question his own role within the group, along with the motivations of Father (Nigel Bennett) and Mother (Toni Ellwand). An arranged marriage to newcomer Mary (Keana Lyn) proves to be a further disruption for Caleb, prompting him to further question his situation.
The film’s period setting presents some challenges, mainly in terms of dialogue. This is furthered by the film’s frequent dips into high melodrama. The sober language and the sudden escalations are a slippery contrast that makes the performer’s roles that much more difficult to fulfil. This, along with a narrative that reveals itself far too early into the run time, hampers the film’s ability to sustain itself.
However, there are technical elements that become enjoyable in their own right. On one level, this is mildly frustrating as you can see the real potential of this film to be something more if it wasn’t attached to and embedded within the wider narrative. An excellent string score provides panic to high-energy scenes, some sections invoking the memory of The Blood on Satan’s Claw. Mary’s singing, seeping through walls turns her into a siren figure, effective in furthering her impact on the group. The relationship between Mother and Father, too, offers a departure, not offering pure patriarchal rule governed by Father, but an exploration of slightly more complex dynamics.
While The Family does make efforts to craft an engaging narrative, weaving effective technical elements into the film, it can’t overcome that its themes and execution have often been overused and this similarity impacts it.
2.5 out of 5 stars
The Family played as part of Grimmfest Easter. For more information on Grimmfest please see their webpage.