Director: Will Jewell
Writer: Will Jewell
Cast: Steve Speirs, Goran Bogdan, Kevin Guthrie, Chris Reilly, Charley Palmer Rothwell, William Thomas, Amber Rose Revah
Producers: Rob Alexander, Ian Davies, Kathy Speirs
Music: Paul Hartnoll
Cinematography: Rachel Clark
Editor: David Wigram
Running time: 91mins
What’s the story: In the Welsh valleys, Bob (Speirs) and a motley crew of cash-in-hand labourers begin a building job at the country estate of imperious ex-army captain Simon (Guthrie). But simmering tensions threaten to turn ugly.
What’s the verdict: Rural horror and class warfare make for happy bedfellows in Will Jewell’s accomplished thriller.
The set-up and location will be familiar to anyone who has watched a British shocker in the past ten years. But writer/director Jewell elicits uniformly excellent performances from his cast, whose well-drawn characters are put through the wringer as tensions and twists mount.
Speirs, of TV’s Stella and several Ricky Gervais outings, gives a masterclass in barely checked desperation and forced positivity. But morale is in low supply as military class landowner Simon (Fantastic Beast’s Guthrie) repeatedly defers on payment. The Ukrainian Victor (Bogdan) is looking to send cash to his daughter back home, while the elderly Dave (Thomas) clashes with Steve (Palmer Rothwell), Bob’s ingrate nephew, constantly one smart remark away from a smack.
Fueling the flames of resentment is Jim (Reilly), tightly wound, mean-eyed and clearly hiding something.
Attention to believable character motivation lays solid foundations for the inevitable descent into recrimination and horror. Including a haunting sequence straight out of Edgar Allan Poe’s darker musings.
Jewell can shoot a game of cards with the same level of tension as a Tarantino Mexican standoff, and uses the impressive but imposing Welsh countryside to arresting effect.
But the standout scene is a surface-level friendly chat between Jim and Simon’s fiancée Amy (Revah). Fresh back from London, she attempts to play dumb despite the obvious signs of chaos around her. But, no-one is that stupid…
A couple of late-in-the-day twists nicely prove that these concrete plans are only as solid as those executing them, and round off a fine debut.