REVIEW: Father of Flies (2021)

dir. Ben Charles Edwards

Flecked with tinges of the American gothic, director Ben Charles Edwards’ sophomore outing is a slowly creeping, dark and tragic insight into a family who are haunted by unimaginable trauma. Young Michael (Keaton Tetlow) and his teenage sister Donna (Page Ruth) attempt to come to terms with their absent mother and the bizarre woman their father has moved into their home. The inner emotional turmoil of the familial unit births a supernatural force that threatens to engulf the already severed household members.

There’s something about masked villains that straddles the uncanny, and although the actual cosmetic mask worn by stepmother Coral (Camilla Rutherford) is less Michael Myers and more Christiane Génessier from Les Yeux Sans Visage, she is played with a cold, British uncomfortableness usually reserved for Bond villains. The manner in which she swans about the typically American home, wearing feathered flowing robes and listening to great goth staple The Cure is strange and out of place, leaving audiences questioning whether it is her presence that is in fact haunting the children rather than any ghostly spectre.

Director Edwards began his career as a photographer, and that influence peeks through in the sparse and icy landscapes of upstate New York, capturing an atmosphere that resonates throughout. However although Father of Flies is visually stunning, the screenplay feels too borrowed: one particular scene is straight from Ignacio F. Rodó’s short Tuck Me In, which in turn is based on a two sentence horror story written by Juan J Ruiz. Despite being an overly familiar story, the viewpoint of childhood terrors is deeply endearing to the overall narrative.

Father of Flies then is a bleakly grim look at family tragedy and an exploration of the grief it breeds. The movie twists, turns and intertwines – much like the trees that surround the house – constantly misleading audiences until the final, devastating resolve.

⭐⭐⭐

Ygraine Hackett-Cantabrana

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