Await Further Instructions [2018]

While I’ve never claimed to be a huge fan of Sci-Fi, there are always exceptions, especially when it crosses genres and blends with one of my favorites, horror.

I knew virtually nothing about Await Further Instructions when I stumbled across it on Netflix. The description seemed vaguely ominous—it sounded like some sort of low budget take on the Saw franchise. It turned out to be something much different altogether. As with all movies (and horror movies in particular), your mileage may vary, so once you’ve read my write up be sure to set your standards accordingly.

Await Further Instructions begins with British Nick and his Indian girlfriend Annji coming to Nick’s family home to visit over the Christmas holiday. We get to meet, in quick succession, Nick’s somewhat racist and quite pregnant sister Kate and her doofus baby daddy Scott, his downright batty mother Beth, lifelong military man and ultra-authoritarian dad Tony, and not-as-senile-as-he-appears, very racist grandpa.

None of the characters are fully developed—they seem more like caricatures than actual characters. Luckily, the plot moves along quickly enough that we don’t spend too much time on their thinly veiled racist comments to Annji, or the bad blood between Tony and Nick that led to Nick not coming home to visit for a few years. Soon enough, we are treated to the meat of the story, which to my surprise turned out to be more Twilight Zone (or, perhaps more accurately, weak Black Mirror) than Saw.

Nick and Annji decide to go back home early one morning, and discover they can’t. The front door—and as they soon discover, the entire house—is covered with…well, something, that is blocking anyone from getting into or out of the house. Not long after their discovery, the television goes black and displays the following message:

This is where the fun, and best part of the movie, begins. The family argue and hypothesize about who could be sending the message, then argue more as the messages change and become more and more outlandish as time goes on. The pacing is good, keeping things moving before it gets too redundant, and despite the lack of depth of the characters, some of the scenarios that play out seem painfully realistic.

That is, until, the final act.

I won’t spoil anything, other than to say the climax is when things go full bore Sci-Fi, and the actual premise behind it is not bad—the real problem is that the ideas behind it exceed the movie’s apparent special effects budget. What could’ve worked with a bigger budget instead comes off as cartoony and lame. The climax isn’t totally ruined, and I kind of liked the closing shots, but my enjoyment definitely dipped during the film’s last 15-20 minutes.

Like some of my other picks so far this month, you could do worse than Await Further Instructions, but you could also do better.