RAINDANCE ’21 — ‘Father of Flies is a Disorientating Display of Familial Grief

A still from 'Father of Flies'. A woman is shown sat in a pink living room on a grey armchair. She is wearing a pink satin nightgown with extravagant feathered sleeves, and wearing a pink UV face lamp. There is a sinister tone to the image despite the bright colours.
Strike Media

Directed and written by Ben Charles Edwards, and co-written by Nadia Doherty, Father of Flies follows Michael (Keaton Tetlow), a vulnerable young boy, and his older sister Donna (Page Ruth) as they struggle to cope with their absent mother and their father’s strange new partner, Coral (Camilla Rutherford).

The opening act of any horror film is vital to establishing the tone, introducing the villain, and often showcasing the first scare. Father of Flies is a subtle combination of a such a variety of horror films that it’s opening scene of Coral in the kitchen, electronic face mask glued to her as she exists, cold and void, echo imagery in tribute to Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s Goodnight Mommy. Even the synopsis loosely fits the same unsettling, anxiety inducing parental imposter syndrome. This is merely what lurks on the surface of Father of Flies, as what unfolds is a depressing poetic exploration of grief and childhood fears.  

The overlapping similarities of so many horror films are woven together with remnants of Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, Hooper’s horror classic Poltergeist and pretty much any Stephen King novel making up the blue-print for this psychological horror. On paper this might sound questionable, but Edwards and Doherty pull off seemingly never-ending (and sometimes unsuspecting) twists and turns with such respect and understanding for the horror genre it is simply hard not to appreciate the clear displays of love and passion. Many narrative and aesthetic choices at first seem questionable, although most of them work in favour of the mystery.

For such a short run time (1 hour 18 minutes), the pacing is commendable. The film consistently builds in tension, revealing information in short bursts to misdirect the audience. This makes for an impressive display of psychological spooks in their finest form as you’re constantly attempting to predict what’s going to happen – making it hard to get hung up on the flaws. Father of Flies is in no way perfect. Much of the dialogue is questionable and rigid which causes the film to feel stagnant at times. Visually the film is stunning, providing shot after shot of a cool, crisp, feminine aesthetic. This is let down only by the hollow attributes of the script.

Overall, Father of Flies is a short and surprisingly tragic tale of family relationships, mixed with some strong scares and a solid soundtrack leading the way to a shocking, gut wrenching finale.

Father of Flies had it’s UK Physical Premiere at Raindance Film Festival and will be released in the UK in 2022

by Kelsie Dickinson

Kelsie (she/her) is a super gay masters student at The University of Glasgow. She loves slashers, but hates capitalism. Her favourite films are It Follows, Midsommar, Lost In Translation and Ghost World. Find her on Twitter.

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