Observance (2016)

Observance is the latest addition to micro budget Australian films. Cunningly stylish, this hybrid horror/psychological thriller offers genuinely unsettling scenes filled with moody atmospheric grunge. A film full of visual clues, secretive backstory and answers to questions left for the audience to decipher themselves. Observance will hauntingly fester away in your mind.

From a derelict apartment across the street, Parker (Lindsay Farris) reluctantly returns to work as a private investigator, after the death of his young son, to fund for excessive medical bills. Embarking on an unusual assignment to observe a woman (Stephanie King) and report back daily to the mysterious client. Things aren’t as they seem, as Parker begins to spiral into confusion, delusion and possibly madness.

Ambitiously made back in January 2013 on the director’s, Joseph Sim-Dennett, credit card for just $11,000 and filmed only in 11 days. Observance premiered last year at the reputable Fantasia Film Festival and garnered enough buzz to bring it back home to a limited release in Australia cinemas. The films enigmatic approach to storytelling reverently does not spoon feed the narrative to its audience, rather leaves the riddle of the film left to your own interpretation.

The stylish voyeurism is layered with terror and paranoia. Scenes are tinted in unhealthy shades of green, as if the film becomes sick alongside Parker’s deteriorating mind frame. The majority of the movie lacks any real dialogue and as the unsettling sound design takes hold, not only does it leave the characters in the dark, but the audience too with its insidious ambiance.

Although the film is Australian, the actors speak in American accents, which was disappointing to see Sims-Dennett hide the films heritage. Fortunately, I attended a Q & A session with the director, and typically this questions arose. Sims-Dennett stated it was a creative decision to accommodate the sub plot of Parker’s excess of large medical bills for his son (Australia has Medicare therefore would have rendered the necessity of the high paying job). Really, a non issue though, that shouldn’t break the prominence of the film.

Observance is a unique and impressive achievement. Regular cinema goers may find the mystery frustratingly unresolved, as the final act offers an abrupt loop of suspension. Visually pleasing, thought provoking and undoubtedly oblique, Observance is no doubt a film the requires a re-watch as the ending festers away under your skin.

8.0 / 10

“Stop watching”

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