EIFF 2016: FirstBorn (2016)
FirstBorn is a film from director Nirpal Bhogal, and when I sat down to watch the film I couldn’t recall why I had wanted to see it, apart from it being a horror movie. Then I saw that the script was written by Bhogal and Sean Hogan. THAT is why. Although I have only seen two of his previous outings, Sean Hogan has impressed me with his work on Little Deaths (directed and wrote one segment) and The Devil’s Business (which he wrote and directed). Hogan has a great knack for mixing the occult into everyday British life, and this continues here in FirstBorn.
Antonia Thomas and Luke Norris are the young parents who soon discover that there’s something threatening their child. Something supernatural and evil. And that’s only the very start of the movie. After fast forwarding six years, viewers get to see the parents still dealing with their strange parental life. Young Juliet (Georgie Smith) tries her best to abide by certain rules that are supposed to keep her safe, but she’s still just a child and she wants moments of normality. Jonathan Hyde plays the grandfather who has experience with the occult, and keeps doing his best to keep everything in order, and Eileen Davies is an elderly women with even more experience and power to potentially help solve this particular problem.
What you get here are some good ideas seriously hampered by clumsy execution. This is another low budget horror movie that tries to cover things up with low lighting and quick editing. Sadly, the glimpses of the actual horrors on display tease some fine practical FX that aren’t given enough time to shine. The acting from everyone involved is very good, especially from Thomas as the anxious mother torn between wanting to protect her daughter and wanting her life back, and the story moves towards an intriguing third act. There are, however, some frustrating moments in which the script looks set to offer up some more interesting, and complex, ideas. It doesn’t though. Instead, it just settles back into the clearer path that has been carved out for the narrative to move from start to finish without too many diversions.
Admirable for the way in which it deals maturely with material that we usually see turned into melodramatic, soap-opera, nonsense, FirstBorn is worth some of your time and attention. But it’s a step down in quality for Hogan, and I hope to see better from him in whatever project he next turns his hand to.
DIRECTOR: NIRPAL BHOGAL
WRITER: SEAN HOGAN, NIRPAL BHOGAL
STARS: ANTONIA THOMAS, LUKE NORRIS, EILEEN DAVIES, JONATHAN HYDE, GEORGIE SMITH
RUNTIME: 86 MINS APPROX