Await Further Instructions Awaiting Cohesive Ending

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Await Further Instructions

The Milgram family is full of tensions, both open and repressed. Son Nick (SAM GITTINS) hasn't been home for years, and gives no explanation as to why. He returns for Christmas, unannounced, and brings with him his girfriend, Annji (NEERJA NAIK), into an environment that's openly racist. His sister, Kate (HOLLY WESTON) is a stereotypical airheadh and two weeks out from delivering a baby, and her husband Scott (KRIS SADDLER) is a clueless sheep with muscles. Mom and Dad are poles apart from each other, with Bet (ABIGAIL CRUTTENDEN) trying to put on a cheery holiday face and ignore the stress, while Tony (GRANT MASTERS) is a follower of rules because they are laid down by those who know better.

And then there's Grandad (DAVID BRADLEY, DOCTOR WHO: TWICE UPON A TIME), who's a bitter blighter and doesn't care who knows it. He insinuates the worst about everyone there, including his own son, picking at deeply rooted insecurities. It's an environment Nick regrets returning to, and promises Annji they will leave together in the morning before sunup.

Their plans are put on hold, however, when they open the front door the next day to find an odd mesh of metal cabling forming a solid blockade. The same holds true for all the windows and every other egress from the Milgram house. All networks are disconnected, and the only outside communication they have is from the television which broadcasts an emergency teletype message: AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.

As the family speculates what may have happened, Tony decides they are going to proceed with a proper British Christmas dinner and not let whatever (undoubtedly terrorist) incident has occurred spoil it.

But just as they're about to tuck into their feast, the message changes, telling them their food has been contaminated. While Nick distrusts the message, Tony is a strong follower and promptly trashes all the household comestibles.

As time passes, other messages appear, with instructions about infections, sleeper agents, and religion, all while the family dissolves into chaos and psychosis.

As a psychological horror, AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS masters the tension and dysfunction that comes from imprisonment and utter isolation. Where it falls apart, however, is when it tries to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Who was giving the instructions? How did they manufacture the items that were slipped into the house? And what were the ultimate motives for the actions taken? Some of these questions have answers, but they are wholly unsatisfactory when taken with all that had gone before this. The leading bulk of the project is a very well done modernization of THE MONSTERS ARE DUE ON MAPLE STREET, playing on human suspicions, mistrust, and blind acceptance of authority. The last ten percent could have used a major re-think to come up with an ending that was more cohesive with the given narrative, and seemed to be the place where the filmmakers decided to blow their special effects budget for spectactle at the expense of story which, for the better part of the whole, was extremely well-acted and psychologically focused and disturbing.

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0