Await further instructions (2018)

I’m sort of an aficionado when it comes to the sf/mystery movie genre, so when I came across “Await Further Instructions” (Director Johnny Kevorkian) during the prolonged lock down days, I gave it a shot.

Looking by the movie poster it seemed it will probably be a decent indie sf experience. Little did I know it will be an awful movie, the sf/mystery elements being only used to push completely something else. The stark contrast between review scores should have been a red flag but hey, I watched it anyway, so now I have a reason to write an article that will hopefully save you the 90 minutes I lost.

The movie follows the reunion of the Milgram family, a British working class family, around the Christmas. Nick, the son, who has a pretty rough relation with his conservative dad, returns home with his British-Indian girlfriend Annji. At mom’s request, they decide to join the Christmas dinner since Kate, Nick’s pregnant sister and her husband Scott will also come.

However things don’t go very well. After Kate arrives, some awful anti-immigrant comments by Kate and grandpa Milgram trigger a serious argument between Nick and his Dad. It seems Nick’s sister is not the smartest tool in the shed.

For some reason Kate is making dumb and uneducated remarks every time she opens her mouth as if the movie really wants you to hate her, after her father, of course. At some point Annji and Kate were playing scrabble and Annjie comes with “tumult” at which Kate tells her “indian words don’t count ” ( cause she’s stupid and bigoted and doesn’t know her own language, get it? ). Seriously, who does that…

Her dad, Tony Milgram is no better, constantly picking fights with his son. In fact, the entire movie is played in this tension between Nick and his dad, one being portrayed as the rational, empathic and open-minded, and the other as a bigoted, frustrated, controlling tyrant. The source of Milgram senior’s frustrations seems to be grandpa who constantly belittles him and undermines his authority in front of everyone.

Following their fight, Nick and his girlfriend decide to leave early in the morning, but when they get up, surprise: the house is barricaded with some sort of metallic grille that covers all exits and windows leaving all of them locked in the house. The only means of communication with the outside seem to be only the TV that shows teletext instructions who grandpa and Nick’s dad quickly attribute to the government. And from this point on, things really go insane, to the point of ridiculousness. Daddy Tony even joins forces with Scott to “maintain order and authority” in the house, the only opposition being his own son Nick (cause he is insecure and dictatorial, get it? this movie does not hold back, I tell you). Against all common sense and reason the elders of the family keep following the weird TV instructions. First, it tells them that the Christmas food is contaminated, so dad decides to throw away all the food against all Nick’s protests. Then it puts them to throw all clothes and “decontaminate” with bleach. Then some vaccine kits with mysterious serum are sent through the chimney and they are instructed to use them. Of course the dad forces everyone to use them, even though Annji as a medic advises heavily against. Following this, grandpa dies. At some point the TV tells them someone is infected and must be isolated. Naturally, the one everyone suspects is Annji (cause she’s of foreign origin lol). After all that’s what bigots and ignorants do, right?

Later they all go to sleep except Nick who tries to interrupt the TV connection which proves to control dad’s decisions. His sister catches him, and because she was always envious on her smarter brother, calls dad. A fight ensues between Karen and her brother, Scott charges Nick and they fight on the stairs but by mistake they push Kate over the handrail and she breaks a leg and starts bleeding. Tony, and Scott seem unable to handle the situation and basically do nothing to help her. Nick, the only one who gives a rat’s ass, tries to find a way out and manages to reach the exterior of the house through the toilet pipe with his phone. He manages to catch on camera something resembling a monster that engulfs the house. Right when he wants to show the evidence to his dad, Tony accuses him of being a spy of the outside enemy and with the help of Scott ties him and tries to make him confess through torture (Yeah, his own son. This plot gets better and better). Kate dies, and Nick gets out of the hands of his father only with the help of his mother Beth. Meanwhile, Annji finds an old TV in the room she is locked in and upon closer inspection, discovers it is inhabited by a weird life form which in turn triggers a poisonous gas on the first floor, killing Nick’s mother and almost catching Annjie. Fed up with all, Nick dares to destroy the TV but right at that moment the life form controlling the TV changes the tone, and comes as a saviour, and of course Tony believes it’s the Lord himself speaking, because why wouldn’t he at this point. And as any divine being he asks for a scarifice, and of course Tony tries to use Annjie. A fight between dad an Nick ensues, Scott dares to oppose as well and is killed with an axe. Nick manages to defeat his dad but a tentacled parasitic monster comes out of the TV and starts controlling his dad and demanding worship. Nick refuses and in the final fight the parasite emerges victorious.

In the end the parasitic life form remains without human hosts to manipulate and demand submission, the only one alive being Kate’s unborn baby.

From the beginning this movie really made it clear it wants you to hate this family. At every step they are portrayed as insufferable, xenophobic and dimwitted. The characters are at some point so annoying that you really have a satisfaction seeing them suffering gruesome deaths. I found myself yelling “Finally!” when Kate was pushed down and broke her leg, enjoying the fact that at least I wont have to listen her saying stupid shit.

However I think the most ridiculous idea is the social commentary that the movie tries to make in a not very subtle way. The problem with generalization and stereotypes is that they work only when there is an accurate description of a group. Portraying working class British families as hard christians, hateful and idiotic, controlled by whatever those on the TV are saying , comes across more as a means of expressing personal grudge against a certain group of people than the reality. And I get were this comes from, especially with the Brexit happening and the complex social situation of Britain in general. But projecting your own stereotypes might not make for a great movie. Granddad is a racist that bullies his adult son, Tony is a sick dictator obsessed with control, Beth is a spineless mother incapable of picking sides, Kate small-minded and envious, Scott ignorant and a dumb tool. Does this look to you as the portrayal of your average British family or more as the projection of a revolting adolescent trapped inside the body of an adult who happens to direct a movie.

The Christian theme plays for some reason an important role, the whole action takes place during Christmas, and the movie can’t help not to score some points on this one too. When Nick decides to spend the night at home, he tells Annjie he “has to go to his bedroom because two people outside of christian wedlock should not share a bedroom”, implying his family is extremely conservative. Seriously, who is trying this movie to stereotype here? Who cares about this in the highly secular UK of 2020? And for what is worth they have sex anyway later when they had to strip their “contaminated clothes”. In the end the parasitic life form (that is made up of camera cables) presents itself as a savior and of course, Tony believes it (while the camera pans on the hanged cross on the wall), because if you are christian you are definitely gullible enough to worship even a monster.

If it wasn’t obvious already, the many-cables parasite that controls Tony and grandpa is a not so subtle reference as how the only information source they have is TV and they religiously listen to it much like the american evangelicals that watch only Fox News. But again, this is a bad take. You can be on the internet and have the same close-mindedness, listening only to the same sources of information you deem worthy as the producers of this movie most certainly do. After all, just like the TV-consuming conservative boomers, the other generations do the same, consuming the same soulless kind of media and entertainment and taking for truth anything that comes out of the mouths of their favorite politicians, celebrities. The only difference is that the working class boomers can’t make a horror movie in which to berate the others.

Overall, if you came for the sf/mystery, you will leave disappointed. Those are only devices used to push bad, questionable social commentary. I rate this movie 3 old CRT TVs out of 10.

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