Directed by Adam Levins.
Starring Amy Manson, Craig Conway, Simon Quarterman, James Cosmo, Bob Duff, James Lance, Eileen Nicholas, Nora-Jane Noone.
A woman with amnesia from a crash returns to her family home and tries to work out who she was before her accident and why her family are behaving so strangely towards her.
Touching on the subject of class and the insular nature of family in the upper classes, Estranged is a curious British thriller about January (Amy Manson – Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud), a vibrant young woman having the time of her life travelling through Brazil with her boyfriend Callum (Simon Quarterman – The Devil Inside) when she is flung from their scooter during a crash. Surviving but suffering from amnesia and needing a wheelchair until she regains the use of her legs, January returns to her isolated family mansion deep in the British countryside with Callum but the welcome she receives from her family is a strangely cold one. Feeling something is not quite right from the start, January is desperate to remember why she left the family home in the first place but once Callum disappears without trace January is left alone with her parents and two siblings, along with the creeping dread that her family may not be the people they say they are.
Starting off as a family drama with a very dark undertone, Estranged is a masterclass in slow-burning tension that builds into a nightmare, evoking Steven Sheil’s Mum & Dad but in a Downton Abbey-esque setting. The isolated mansion is as much a character as the main cast and immediately sets a mood that you could compare to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or even Psycho for eeriness, but those are films that clue you in before the opening credits have finished as to what lays ahead; Estranged gives nothing away as we are introduced to January’s parents, played brilliantly by Trainspotting’s James Cosmo and Eileen Nicholas, and her creepy brother and sister, played by James Lance and The Descent’s Nora-Jane Noone respectively. Cosmo especially delivers the kind of performance that can make or break a film that is built on suspense and the way he moves from calm squinty-eyed suspicion when January and Callum arrive at the house to full-on brutality by the time of the film’s climax is as gripping as trying to figure out what happened to make January leave the house all those years ago.
Underscoring all of the main performances is Craig Conway as Thomas the butler, witnessing everything that is going on and the only person in the household capable of shedding any real light onto the situation. The subtle camerawork during certain scenes where he is lurking in the background foreshadows where the film will ultimately go but it is nonetheless a tense journey getting there. The final reveal is a little underwhelming considering the fantastic build-up but just to have a new film that evokes the classic British horror movies of yesteryear but adds a little spice to the formula is something worth celebrating, and on the whole, Estranged delivers.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★