British science fiction-horror hybrid Await Further Instructions has finally arrived on Netflix. To date, I’ve seen no marketing materials outside of a handful of trailers. Nonetheless, the British sci-fi thriller promises to mix Black Mirror ideas with the familiar narrative of a handful of survivors trapped and pitted against one another in a confined space.
It’s Christmas and Nick Milgram and girlfriend, Annji, are spending the holidays with his estranged family. On Christmas morning, the Milgram’s wake up to discover their house is seal in from the outside by mysterious black material. All phones and Internet are cut off from the outside world. Only mysterious glowing green instructions emanate from the television advising the Milgram’s to ‘Stay Indoors and Await Further Instructions.’ Soon the television begins delivering commands that increasingly pit the family against one another.
Await Further Instructions Wastes Excellent Premise
Oh what could have been! Await Further Instructions boasts a fantastic sci-fi premise. Unfortunately, the execution of the premise is more Twilight Zone sans Rod Serling than Black Mirror. Everything about this movie is heavy-handed and lacklustre. Chief among the movie’s problems, director Johnny Kevorkian struggles to give the movie a distinct visual identity. That is, Await Further Instructions has an overall drab look to it. One can’t help but shake the feeling that you’re watching an old episode of a cheaply produced sci-fi television series. In part, the problem may stem from the limited physical setting of the movie. But a more talented filmmaker could have squeezed out tension from the claustrophobic setting.
When Kevorkian presents his final twist, you’ll just be checking to see how much time is left in the movie.
On a related note, Kevorkian fails to inject suspense and tension into the movie. Yes, Await Further Instructions feels every bit as long as its 90-minute runtime. For most of this 90 minutes, the movie plods along as expected with little deviation from its predictable course. Even with its interesting premise, there’s a feeling of ‘been here, done that’ to the movie. Familial conflict feels as dull as the movie’s visual style. And Kevorkian films those moments that pick up the pace with a notable lack of flair. Everything about the movie has a perfunctory feeling to it. When Kevorkian presents his final twist, you’ll just be checking to see how much time is left in the movie. It’s too bad because there’s some potentially fun Cronenbergian body horror potential.
One-Note Characters and Heavy-Handed Delivery Sink The Concept
To some extent, Await Further Instructions suffers from a weak screenplay. Writer Gavin Williams doesn’t seem to know what to do with his neat premise. Instead of a suspenseful, thought-provoking allegorical tale, Williams churns out a ‘Wikipedia’ version of what might have been. Specifically, Williams treats us to one-note characters who exemplify the conflicts to which they’re intended to contribute. David Bradley’s ‘Granddad’ is the racist family patriarch who would have voted in favour of ‘Brexit.’ Grant Masters is authoritarian father, Tony, who blindly insists the Milgram’s follow the television’s instructions. And Sam Gittins is the progressive son who defies his father’s adherence to rules. Why? Just because. Keep in mind, all the actors turn in fine performance. Williams just doesn’t give the cast much with which to work.
Williams’ screenplay fails to weave his intended messages into a compelling story.
In addition to one-dimensional characters, Await Further Instructions doesn’t seem to know what it’s ultimately about. In all likelihood, the movie is tapping into those factors that contributed to Britain’s Brexit dilemma. Xenophobia, paranoia, exploitation of media messages – Await Further Instructions considers all these ideas in the same heavy-handed fashion. Of course, none of these ideas seem to gel together well. Williams’ screenplay fails to weave his intended messages into a compelling story.
Await Better Options on Netflix
In spite of its potential-laden premise, Await Further Instructions has little to recommend audiences. By and large, it’s a dull movie – visually and suspense-wise. There’s a lack of urgency to the proceedings and most of the story along with its characters feel too familiar. If you’re looking for good sci-fi options, re-watch some Black Mirror episodes while you wait for Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot.