‘Father of the Flies’ Review: Dir. Ben Charles Edwards [Best of the Fests]

Inspired by director and co-writer Ben Charles Edwards’ childhood, Father of Flies almost didn’t make it to completion. For various reasons, once principal photography was completed, the footage ended up shelved and sat gathering dust for a long time. Then in the wake of the death of one of the lead cast (You’re Next star Nicholas Tucci), Edwards decided that the film deserved to be finished. The end result, which is dedicated in the late Tucci’s honour, has finally begun to be screened to audiences and is currently available to watch via Grimmfest’s virtual festival. Set in an undefined time period, Father of Flies is a haunting and atmospheric tale of a broken home and paranoia. Vulnerable young boy Michael (Keaton Tetlow) must confront the terrifying supernatural forces that take over his home after his father’s new girlfriend moves in. Have they always been there, or have they hitched a ride with the new resident? 

Father of Flies is built upon a fertile ground of mystery and misdirections, perfect for those that like their horror to be intellectually challenging. There is so much presented to digest that it’ll take longer than the runtime alone to fully work through everything. Films in today’s streaming climate have the tendency to be disposable, many feeling as though they have been churned out one after another, so when a film comes along like this that has so much depth, it is to be grabbed onto. The care and attention combined with the personal aspect of the source of the idea makes Father of Flies a very special project. A subdued film that allows the emotion of the story to speak for itself rather than have the characters vocalise them, Father of Flies offers a moody world of feelings for the viewer to get lost amongst. Whether it’s the emotions of the real-world inspiration, or those from the death of one of its stars, the air in Father of Flies is melancholic and chilling. 

Edwards does an excellent job at breathing tension, suspense, and sinister feelings into every fibre of every frame. Father of Flies has been constructed beautifully. Edwards’ visuals are textbook creepy and atmospheric. The colour palette is a wintery mix of greys, browns, and khakis, with most of the narrative unfolding in the shadows of the night. Outside the claustrophobic interiors are oppressive skeletal trees and rumbling thunderstorms and lighting. The weather outside seeping into the house, forcing the temperature down further, making relationships and communications even more cold and strained. The soundtrack and score further amplify the tone, with one excellent use of The Cure’s Lullaby working particularly well, emphasizing an eerie dance sequence beautifully. 

There’s an influence of Stephen King that brushes across everything, but Edwards’ film isn’t a cheap homage. Instead it takes the essence of a really good King novel and works it into something that is similar, but never the same. With the result of Edwards’ labour of love being such a complex and entrancing movie, it’s a shame that it took a tragedy to make it a reality. Now it is in the world though I highly recommend you seek Father of Flies out as soon as you can; preferably on a dark and stormy night for maximum immersion. Darkly complex and utterly absorbing, in Father of Flies Edwards has created an emotionally charged trip through a mysterious horrorscape that is never quite what it seems to be.  

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This review was first published on THN.