A new woman replaces a mentally unwell mom, only for paranormal events to move in with the new stepparent. Every family has its demons, but what has riled them up here? A brother and sister are left struggling to deal with the fallout of this familial upheaval and the strange events which follow.

Father of Flies is a strange film to unpack. This movie is trying to do six or so completely different plotlines, from a family drama exploring both trauma and mental health through to a grab bag of paranormal tropes, and it doesn’t successfully execute any given one of them competently.

The cinematography, while generally pleasant and solidly competent, will have the occasional alarming continuity gaff that will completely rip the attentive viewer out of a scene. Additionally, the production never quite manages to scare, despite some interesting surreal imagery–at times it consistently fails with its set pieces in awkward ways. Even the Key horror sequences fall flat by being constructed from of widely known creepypasta and tropes done better elsewhere. An overall lack of suprise results in a lack of successful suspense building, which in turn gives a cooling effect to the viewing experience. Everything becomes a detached sequence of events being observed without emotional stakes.

The lack of originality is severe enough to leave this a horror movie with zero scares to be had. Conversely,  younger audiences completely new to the genre may get thrills, but veterans of the horror genre will likely meet these scenes with an eye-roll and a groan. However, in spite of all these negative points, there’s reason to recommend in Father of Flies as a means of breaking down the tropes, celebrating some of its eccentric charms, and a enjoyably chaotic conclusion.

It frequently risks never reaching so-bad-it’s-good status by simply being too competent, never quite crossing the line hard enough to be entertaining as a comedy of errors, yet the final ten minutes collide every plot point together so hard that it hits a weird moment of on-screen alchemy to transform into something amazing. Not so much in quality, but certainly in entertainment factor.  A final supernatural sequence, while equally nonsensical and unsurprising due to being done better elsewhere, really allows the cinematography to shine as it takes to a set instead of sticking to the primary location, showing there was a lot of potential to be had if a different approach was taken.

The majority of the acting is stilted yet mostly serviceable, with some stand-out exceptions. Keaton Tetlow is stuck playing the precocious little boy who is written in such a way I would actively want him in peril, but he carries it well enough I begrudgingly didn’t want him to come to a bad end. The real stand-out star is Page Ruth as the older sister, she’s in a league of her own here putting an outstanding performance in to an otherwise stale character written to just be carried along by events.

The opening especially creaks under the weight of the jumbled mess Father of Flies resulted in, which is another strange example of what a mixed bag the film is since it arguably helps build an atmosphere of surreality. Scenes are never completely artless, but still for the most part as uninspired as the story beats. No idea really shines here, but since too many are attempted it is always attempting to do something so generally will manage to engage with its audience.

Nothing ever quite gels together properly here, and it risks being a film people will switch off out of frustration, but this needs emphasizing again: The final ten minutes are well worth the wait. Don’t skip to them either, let the movie do its best to build up to the finale, then embrace the chaos for a pay off which is a unique blend of failing to succeed at what was intended, yet the fallout from trying to be a wild ride.

Father of Flies is a consistently broken project from start to finish. It has a slow ponderous pace that suffers from a lack of focus on themes or ideas, that goes on to frequently underwhelm in the execution of its overenthusiastic multiplicitous mess. Yet, for all I could go on further nitpicking away at the issues this film is filled with when the credits rolled I was plentifully entertained.

This is a deeply flawed earnest attempt at making a horror movie with a variety of ideas that doesn’t achieve what it sets out to do but can absolutely be recommended to most if not all horror fans. Round up some friends for a movie night, talk over the majority of the run time pulling at the many loose plot threads, and then be incredibly entertained in the final ten minutes as tropes collide in wonderfully weird ways. It’s hard not to be disappointed it doesn’t deliver on the promises of its premise, but it’s impossible to say it isn’t worth watching. Go in knowing what you’re getting, but definitely get around to giving this a watch.

Father of Flies is available through Video On Demand services from April 12th and will be receiving festival play across 2022.

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