The Horror genre is undoubtedly undergoing a renaissance in a post-Get Out world, the likes of A Quiet Place & It have shown there can be more to the genre than mindless, mediocre “hack-and-slash” films. However, British horror hasn’t quite made the leap forward in comparison to its American counterparts, therefore we are long overdue a break-out in great British horror films. Fortunately, new independent horror, Charismata shows that we may be on the cusp on of change this side of the pond too!
Premiering at the 2018 Eastend Film Festival, Charismata is a film firmly rooted in the horror genre but manages to effortlessly intertwine elements of a suspense drama and psychological thriller. The central plot follows Serious Crime Squad detectives Rebecca Faraway (played by Sarah Beck Mather) & Eli Smith (played by Adonis Anthony) as they attempt to hunt down a serial killer in London. The easy to follow plotline, which is favourable to horror films, is complemented by a sub-plot exploring detective Faraway’s declining mental state, which is compounded by the on-going stress in her life.
Co-directors, Andy Collier & Toor Mian do a fantastic job of drip-feeding the more surreal elements of the film throughout the 96 minute feature, as a result we get a film that is well paced, and one in which the world that we world we understood in the first 15 minutes is dramatically different to that in the last 15 minutes. Impressively, this is done in a way that does not feel forced, but rather a natural evolution in the film. Mr Sweet (played by Jamie Satterthwaite) gives a show-stealing performance as one of the films suspects, playing a smug executive at property development firm – a character you will love to hate.
A noteworthy point of the film is the directors’ choice of having single female main-cast member in the entire film and how this shaped the character of detective Faraway. Co-director, Toor Mian explained their decision, “Although we specifically wanted a female protagonist, we didn’t want a cliched female protagonist. There are some iconic female police detectives, especially over the last decade, really in terms of television. We didn’t actually want her to be super capable, we wanted her to be three-dimensional, we wanted her to be human, we didn’t want her to be an idealised version of a female detective and we wanted her to be vulnerable“.
The rest of core cast works well together, and consideration has been given to give each of the cast to give them a sense of identity and as well-rounded characters. One slight issue with the film is some of the humour in the early stages seems too forced at times, but is altogether absent approaching the final third. Typically lower budget horrors suffer when it comes to visual effects showing graphic violence, often to the detriment of the impact that the violent scenes should have, thankfully Charismata largely avoids with careful shot selection. In the film’s most surreal moments, however, that alone should not deter you from what is otherwise a visually sound and delightful film.
So is Charismata a turning point for British horror films? We certainly hope so! Yes, at times it is a film that is a little rough around the edges, but what good horror film isn’t?
Charismata is currently being screened in select film festivals, so expect it to see an official release later in 2018.