There are a lot of films that start off with loads of buildup and ambiguity, only to lose the mystery later on in the film when everything finally gets an explanation. Usually, this explanation comes in the form of some type of monolog. Some sort of spoken epiphany or realization. They try and explain things as well as they can because, you, the viewer, can’t figure out things on your own. At least, that’s the feeling I get from many movies.
Observance does not care whether or not you understand what’s going on.
Everything about this film is soaked in mystery; it’s deep, dark, brooding, and overwhelmingly strange. This Aussie horror flick stars Lindsay Farris as Parker, a private investigator who takes on a job keeping track on a woman across the street from him while he stays in a decrepit apartment. His life at home is a wreck. His son has passed away and his wife will not speak to him. To keep up with an insurmountable level of hospital bills, he takes on this seemingly innocent job. Only, there’s something strange about this apartment. Something that is clearly beyond any human’s comprehension.
Who is this mysterious employer? What is this strange black liquid in jars around the house? What the actual Hell is going on here?
Observance is comparable to the early works of David Lynch. It’s artful; every frame seems purposeful and full of direction, though what direction it’s actually going is open to interpretation. The sound editing on this film is phenomenal – it’s wholly unnerving and tense. Every single thing about Joseph Sims-Dennett’s micro-budget film (it was shot for about $11,000) sets out to make you feel uncomfortable and upset.
Scenes of a dreary ocean permeate Parker’s memory, coupled with the sound of the waves mixed with what sounds like a train roaring by. Sims-Dennett understands the impact that the film’s sonic frequencies can have on the viewer and pays careful attention to assure it’s dominance over the bleak mood. And while most of the imagery is not particularly gory, the sickly-green palette of the grimy walls help to make the viewer feel just plain dirty. You may feel the need to take a shower after the movie and wipe the filth off. That’s a compliment, I promise.
While some fans of conventional horror cinema may find the lack of explanation for the occurrences in this film a disappointment, those looking for a showcase of the bizarre will find the film a viable option to satiate their strange cravings. It’ll leave you scratching your head and wording what in the world you were just a witness to, but you’ll undoubtedly be pondering over it hours after the final frame.
Observance is now available on BluRay, DVD, and On Demand.