Cast: Ben Hall, Bryan Massey, Dalton Olive, Laura Spencer, Reid Strickland, Jeff West, Stephanie Young
Either you’re a fan of scary movies or you’re not. And your answer to that question will go a long way toward letting you know how you’ll feel about viewing "The Familiar". Although it bills itself as “a terrifying story", I would classify it as a "supernatural thriller”. Horror films (a.k.a. “lookout…behind you!” films) have little in common with “The Familiar” and its attempts to blend religion redemption, and relationships with an otherworldly approach.
“The Familiar” is the story of a widower, loner, gunsmith, hard-drinking (but never too drunk) ex-preacher named Sam, played by Bryan Massey. He and his friend, cop, sounding board, conscience, shooting buddy Charlie, experienced something demonic as kids and now (25 years later) the demon (Demons?) is (are?) back to test them and their beliefs. Helping Sam in his search for inner peace is Laura, Sam’s sister in law, played by Laura Spencer. Spencer has the flashy role, nicely underplaying the initial scenes as her purpose unfolds.
There are shadowy figures haunting Sam, who also is having trouble getting over the death of his wife five years earlier. His struggle with inner demons must be conquered before his battle against the “outer” demons may commence.
Not being one to give away major plot points, instead allow me to make sure we have everything on the supernatual movie checklist: “What was that?” moments. Check…Sassy, pretty, young female. Check… “I’m tellin’ you, I saw something out there!” scene. Check…Sassy, pretty, young female in peril. Check… Main character sporting spooky Brett Favre-like beard. Check. (Well, the last one was scary to me.)
Director Miles Hanon also serves as writer, editor, and cinematographer. Director/Photographer Hanon is somewhat let down by Writer/Editor Hanon.Like most horror movies The Familar is sometimes confusing and heavy handed, but unique to the point of keeping you reeled in. Hanon could use “The Familiar” as his jumping off point for future camerawork assignments, though. He paints a nice backdrop for the film, and gets the most visually out what was likely a small budget project.
At times TOO obvious, and other times frustratingly lacking in details, “The Familiar” is impressive in its ability to create a unique story for the first two acts, until weakening in the final scenes. Hanon has a good movie in there, and probably could get it all up on screen if he were given a bigger budget.
(One thing bothered me about “The Familiar”. With gunsmith business apparently lacking, Sam’s home seems to have a nice satellite/cable TV set-up. Since he has a pretty heavy booze-jones going on through the movie, and no steady income, a flat screen and satellite hook-up seem out of place with his character’s finances. You ever fall behind with your cable bill? I’d rather face the demons of “The Familiar” than the cable company’s wrath.)
The intention of every scary movie is to deliver a sustained creepy feeling, a unique twist to the oft-visited formula, and create a two-hour diversion to couch-bound couples looking for a reason to hold tight. “The Familiar” gets your neck hairs up in enough places to merit two stars.