To my complete lack of surprise, the short film, “Familiar,” is a horror film. However, it’s not the one I expected. You see, in vampire lore, the term “familiar” refers to a human connected with the vampire that will do its bidding (watch either “Let the Right One In” or “Let Me In” for an examples). But writer/director Richard Powell has a very different idea of what that term means in this mind-bending psychological thriller.
There’s not a lot of actual dialogue in the film between family members John Dodd (Robert Nolan), his wife Charlotte (Astrida Auza), and his daughter Jordan (Cathryn Hostick); most of what we hear is the internal dialogue of John as he rails off on his family life; his lack of motivation; and his hopes of sometime, very soon, leaving this life behind. But near the end of the film, we get the hint that this dark side of John’s is something more…tangible. Something that doesn’t need psychotherapy to be dug out of him and destroyed, although if it were, it would certainly be better for him in the long run.
Powell’s movie is only 23 minutes, but you watch, and are mesmerized, for every one of those minutes. Except for Nolan (whose voiceover resonates with eerie menace to match the score by Bernie Greenspoon), the performances are not exactly all that, but they don’t need to be for horror to make an impression. Powell presents a powerful vision of a man being torn apart on the inside, and the tragic consequences that turmoil holds for his family. Like the best horror, it will get under your skin.