Fantasia Film Fest Review: OBSERVANCE

observance_posterThe psychological thriller subgenre of horror has always been one that either works or it doesn’t. When it hits, you can either get a JACOB’S LADDER or you can get,..well…a GOTHIKA. It’s hard for a film that falls somewhere within that kind of film to not be paint by numbers, having spooky and oddly random metaphorical scenes just for the sake of having them. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case with OBSERVANCE, a film that relies too much on the films that obviously inspired it instead of doing something original with the material.

The film deals with Parker (Lindsay Farris), a man who has been completely torn apart, emotionally and psychologically, by the death of his young son. His marriage is heading into a permanent separation and the bills from the children’s hospital are quite large. To make money and be left alone, Parker takes a job spying on a woman from an across the street building, a job that is very mysterious and the reasons behind the job are continually unknown. He spends day in, day out taking photos of the woman and observing her actions of staying inside of her residence, a boring and time consuming job that has Parker going a bit stir crazy.

The setup of OBSERVANCE is an interesting one, and the loss of a child and the crumbling of a relationship are always effective ways of deconstructing a character and the way they deal with life. Even when Parker begins to witness some seemingly physical violence through the lens of his camera, the film does a great job of gaining your interest. Where it goes off the rails, unfortunately, is when the film decides to wear its influences on its sleeves. Soon the job begins to get to Parker and he starts to have nightmares, visions and manifestations of his psyche crumbling. Odd quick cuts of animal heads, eyeballs getting cut and a black fluid-like ooze that he vomits, all while mysterious voices, people and objects begin to appear to Parker, and the film never quite recovers from those additions. The film goes from REAR WINDOW to THE MACHINIST almost immediately, and though both of those films are great, OBSERVANCE wears the films that came before it too often. There’s a little bit (or a lot) of Polanksi in there, some maybe cult-like happenings, and various other ingredients that would help serve the film, if they were developed more than just being thrown into the film.

Suffering from the lack of elaborating on certain visual themes and ideas, and the lack of really going anywhere, the film ends up just being another film in which the film’s lead loses his grasp, and has his world go south. It’s again, unfortunate, because the film’s first 20 minutes or so are very interesting and are enough to get you to take the ride, but the remaining running time of the film makes you regret spending the time on said ride, instead it’s akin to going on a road-trip with someone, only to be completely frustrated and annoyed with them before you have a chance to full enjoy it.


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