|Await Further Instructions
Directed by Johnny Kevorkian
Written by Gavin Williams
Starring Abigail Cruttenden, Sam Gittins, Neerja Naik
Anyone remember that "prank" where the Emergency Alert System in several states started breathlessly declaring that the bodies of the dead had come back to life and were attacking the living? Ever wonder what would happen if the Emergency Alert System decided to develop its own sadistic sense of humor and do something kind of similar? I didn't, at least until I sat down with Await Further Instructions, which was ready to really blow my mind.
Await Further Instructions follows the Milgrams, and that's a joke that writes itself if you know much about behavioral psychology. More on that later. Anyway, the Milgrams have settled in for Christmas, complete with their son home with his new girlfriend. A potential disaster on its own, but things only get worse when the Milgrams' house is suddenly surrounded by a bizarre black substance. Terrified and bickering, they check the television, only to discover every channel replaced with a message: "Stay Indoors and Await Further Instructions." That's not all the television has to say, though, and the farther in we go, the more we wonder if the Milgrams will make it out alive.
As promised, the later. The Milgrams are a clear reference to Stanley Milgram, Yale psychologist and progenitor of the Milgram Experiment, in which test subjects were told by a Person In Authority to administer a series of electric shocks to someone in another room. The experiment found that people were generally ready to do as they were told as long as sufficient Authority was in play.
Given that this is set in England, which pretty much made a national pastime out of the "orderly queue", it makes that much more sense. Throw in the fact that the Milgrams aren't exactly the Waltons--even the grandfather is a catastrophic jackass; you ever watch a man easily in his seventies actively belittle his forty-something son and then use the phrase "Bobby Bongo Bongos" used to describe foreigners? You will now!--and you've just doubled-down on the craziness.
Seriously, it only takes about a half hour for the whole thing to start breaking down. Between the "office manager" father deciding to be the British neighborhood Hitler and the bubble-headed eldest sister trying to whip her equally bubble-headed husband into a frenzy of protectiveness, the whole thing is like some kind of Christmas special for a sitcom in hell.
You will almost certainly be convinced these people have lost their minds before a third of this movie is done. I was. I cringed several times. But no matter what happened, I could not just stop watching this movie and walk away, resume my normal life, and pretend this thing had never happened.
I have never, never seen so many people do so many bizarre things because, strictly and literally, the TV told them to do it. And then, people will do bizarre things without the TV's prompting, like the Christmas carol that defuses a beating! No, seriously!
The worst of it all is that this movie is patently ludicrous on dozens of levels, yet oddly plausible--most of the Milgrams, much like their namesake experiment, do literally everything Authority tells them to--and that combination of nightmarish over-the-top behavior coupled with terrifying plausibility is both off-putting and compelling at the same time.
The ending is everything you'd expect from a movie that almost celebrated preposterousness. An explanation, at least one of sorts, is offered up, but it will make very little in the way of sense.
Special features include English subtitles, a set of audio options, a set of interview tracks, a storyboard gallery, concept art, and trailers for Dead Night, Possum, The Dark, and Await Further Instructions.
All in all, Await Further Instructions is a celebration of weirdness, but with a surprising old-fashioned twist to it. It's almost aggressively bizarre, and it's not going to make a whole lot of sense. It will, however, be harrowing, and in its way, downright frightening. This won't stand up to repeated viewings; it shot its surprise wad all in the first run. But man, will it ever be some kind of horrible ride.