Await Further Instructions (2018)

Await Further Instructions first published by SciFiNow

After debuting with sink-estate gothic The Disappeared (2008), British director Johnny Kevorkian seemed to vanish himself – but now he has reappeared with a new foray into paranoia and unease, this time set firmly in middle-class suburbia.

Await Further Instructions starts off like an English Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), as Nick (Sam Gittins) returns for the first time in three years to his parents’ home with his Indian girlfriend Annji (Neerja Naik) in tow. It’s Christmas – “the day of the year when our defences are at their lowest,” as Nick’s welcoming mother Beth (Abigail Cruttenden) puts it – and his less welcoming father Tony (Grant Master), granddad (David Bradley), pregnant sister Kate (Holly Weston) and her dim boyfriend Scott (Kris Saddler) all subject Annji to differing degrees of racism. Nick and Annji plan to slip away quietly the following morning, only to find all doors and windows to the house mysteriously blocked from the outside, and a strange series of instructions emanating from the television.

It is no coincidence that this family shares their surname, Milgram, with the man behind a notorious social psychological experiment in immoral compliance. The TV’s increasingly unreasonable orders tap right into the Milgrams’ pre-existing legacy of overbearing patriarchy and toxic masculinity. In particular Tony – a middle manager bullied by his own father – is just as keen to bow to authority (the state’s, God’s) as to exert some of his own, and proves a pliable puppet, his internal wiring all too easily manipulated to destructive ends.

All at once tense family drama, Cronenbergian horror, social satire and sci-fi reimagining of the Nativity, Await Further Instructions shows how difficult it is to escape the domineering, malevolent influence of the media, be it the xenophobic press, poison-spewing televisions, or even films just like this one. It is also a dark vision of both domestic dysfunction and national polarisation in small-minded, small-screen Little Britain. 

Strap: Director Johnny Kevorkian is back with a twisted Yuletide experiment that blurs genres and makes the media the message.

© Anton Bitel