Fantasia Festival is in full swing. Right after we saw We Are Still Here, I stayed back to listen to a little Q&A and then headed over right away to the theatre across to watch the World Premiere of an Australian psychological horror called Observance. It was hosted by the cast and the director. Here’s a little snapshot from the Q&A at the end of the movie.
I love psychological horror and if anything, its been scarce (or just rarely my choices) at Fantasia Festival so believe me, I was pretty excited about this. But then, I’m usually excited about world premieres.
Director: Joseph Sims-Dennett
Cast: Lindsay Farris, Stephanie King, Brendan Cowell, John Jarratt
After his son’s death and the resulting hospital bills causing him to have immense financial burden, Parker takes on a well compensated job as (something like) a private investigator to spy on a woman across the street from a designated apartment. He can’t leave his apartment, ask questions or contact anyone. All he can do is observe and report what he sees. However, as uneventful as it seems at the beginning, he starts experiencing strange dreams and questionable events happen in the isolated apartment that start to bother him. Enough to make him wonder whether this job was a good choice in the first place especially when his unknown employer seems to be working with a hidden agenda.
As I was thinking about how to write the review for Observance, I started thinking about whether I really liked this or not. Fact is, these thoughts carried on for a few days and then I started thinking: what makes a psychological horror good? Its that it makes you think. It builds and lurks in your mind days after. It can mess you up a little while giving you that creeping feeling that’s there. Its just all in your mind though and those thoughts will make you subconsciously suddenly look around the corner and wonder if I’ll have strange things happen just like what happened to Parker. What also took so long was that Observance is a game of beliefs. Is Parker paranoid? Is there spirits lurking in that isolated rundown apartment? Was there a deeper meaning in the various scenarios that played in his head? We get answers but we also leave knowing that there is a lot of ambiguity here. Are you okay with ambiguity? When I first left the theatre, I felt that the ambiguity was too much. It was so ambiguous that it became hard to follow, except now that I’ve had a few days to think about it, I think Observance deserves a second viewing and its one of those psychological horrors that require one because you can now see more, notice details maybe.
Fact is, after days of thinking about it, Observance does a good job at being a psychological horror. The apartment, the focus on when to focus on isolated sounds and when to merge in some sombre music, even how to flow certain events and when to drop hints on where this whole plot is going. I’d be lying if it didn’t creep me out a lot during the movie. I cringed and shifted in my seat. Its the unknown that sits high and proud in this one that overshadows and churns up all those feelings of dread. That creeping feeling latched onto me and to be honest, I had to close my eyes a few times and for one scene, just totally turn away from the screen and one scene that you might not want to take your eyes off of. So yes, as a psychological horror, it definitely does its job right.
Aside from building the atmosphere really well, what totally takes the win in this one over everything is the cast. 80% of the movie is central around our main character Parker, played by Lindsay Farris. This man can definitely act. He pretty much did a one man show of a man, in a way, deteriorating inside, getting paranoid and being confused and all that stuff that comes with a psychological horror. However, being directed only from afar, Stephanie King, who is the girl being watched, also does a great job. We get a cameo from the crazy guy in Wolf Creek as well.
Overall, Observance is a psychological horror which will make you wonder a little what you watched at the end (at least I did). It drops hints throughout the movie but what makes it a worthy psychological horror is that it builds a great atmosphere and introduces very effective scares, knowing when to make it show up, and utilizes sounds very well to help add to it. With a small but solid cast, especially for the main character, the premise of Observance is really good. While I did complain about it being a little too ambiguous, I really think its a very thought provoking psychological horror that might just lurk in your thoughts for a while and make you peek around the corner even if we don’t have some questionable black liquid sitting in a jar in the corner or newspapers covering the entire wall. There’s something more (and different) with Observance that is worth a chance if you like psychological horrors. I might sound vague but I really want you to experience all the surprises yourself, in the end, that’s what makes it scarier, right?
Do you like psychological horror? What do you think about Observance?