Title: Observance (Fantasia 2015 review)

Also known as:

Year: 2015

Genre: Horror / Mystery / Thriller

Language: English

Runtime: 82 min

Director: Joseph Sims-Dennett

Writer: Joseph Sims-Dennett, Josh Zammit

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3591988/

During a tough period in his life, after the death of his son and when his marriage is in a crisis, Parker returns to work. He works as a private investigator, and gets a job to observe a woman through an apartment from across the street. Weird things happen around her, but somehow it seems like something has also reached Parker in the apartment - and he starts to feel ill...

Our thoughts:
Joseph Sims-Dennett's new horror thriller seems to cleverly take pieces of classic suspense thrillers like "Rear Window" and "Peeping Tom", but with a surreal angle à la "Repulsion". You can probably remember several movies that have been influenced by these classics, but which have been far from reaching anywhere close - and mostly coming off like cheap knock-offs. "Observance", while obviously not overshadowing the classics, has brought out an entirely new identity to the ideas. We can definitely feel the nerve of the classics through-out, but Joseph Sims-Dennett's script feels fresh.

Parker is a private investigator who has been going through a family crisis. After the death of his son, his marriage has been falling and their economical situation is poor. He takes on a job for some quick money - and the job is easy; just observe a woman. He gets an abandoned apartment from across the street of the woman's apartment, where he can set up a camera and his audio equipment. It seems like a simple way to get the money, minus the horrible state of the apartment. But when a man visits the woman across the street and seems to be abusing her, Parker gets more involved in the situation and wants to help. His boss tells him no, and that his job is to observe. Parker seriously starts questioning his job when the situation seems to affect him more personally, and he starts seeing things. For what purpose does he have to observe this woman? What will happen to her? Or more importantly, what is happening to Parker himself?

"Observance", though not entirely unique, is a very suspenseful and psychological trip. It remains focused and never takes big leaps, which gives the audience a sense of dread and claustrophobia. When we sit there in the apartment alongside Lindsay Farris' Parker, it's as if we feel his nausea and paranoia as if it is our own. It's a great cinematic delirium. Unfortunately there is a flaw to go with it. Whenever we step out of the apartment or cut to a later moment when things are "better", the tension loosens up and by the next return it's as if we've lost it. It's possible that the movie would have benefited from a constant threat and tension - though it would have been exhausting.

Despite being a complete psychological movie, the movie still comes with moments of disgust - one in particular including some thick, black vomiting. Beyond these scenes, "Observance" is disturbing because of its feverish atmosphere, the soundtrack of noises, the dirty environment, and being completely clueless as to what is happening.

Thanks to a solid script, a director who knows the balance between psychological disturbance and pure horror, an actor who seems very familiar with playing ill, and a cinematographer who can bring out the worst of an abandoned apartment, "Observance" is so much more than a movie with obvious inspirations (though I have not heard a confirmation anywhere that these movies did inspire it). It's a creepy psychological thriller that successfully wraps us into its wings.

Positive things:
- It seems made by a team who are very conscious as to when to hold back.
- The sources of inspiration might seem obvious but it stands on its own two feet.
- Creepy overall.
- A couple of disturbing effects.

Negative things:
- Despite being creepy and intense, it quickly felt lost once the scene ends.
- While it was good that some things weren't explained, I wouldn't have wanted to know a bit more.

Gore: 1.5/5
Nudity: 0.5/5
Story: 3/5
Effects: 3/5
Comedy: 0/5

We watched this movie thanks to:
Fantasia International Film Festival 2015

Reviewed by:


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