Richard Rowntree presents his second feature film, mean-spirited crime/thriller, Nefarious. The film was successfully crowdfunded through Kickstarter hot on the heels of his award-winning debut feature, Dogged (2017) and is set to tour the genre festival circuit throughout 2019 and 2020.
Nefarious centres on the battle between social classes, when a group of impoverished thugs world collides with a wealthy man and his disabled younger brother taking a malignantly dark turn, delivering jaw-dropping twists and turns set to leave the viewer reeling.
From the outset, Nefarious is a cleverly plotted, character driven piece that wastes no time in carefully developing its core characters before throwing them into a grizzly home invasion scenario. Nefarious inhabits the essence of raw, gritty British genre filmmaking with its ‘slice of life’, social realist tone. The setting and performances come across as believable ensuring that the situation about to unfold isn’t far from the realms of reality.
The story itself, is inventively told. It flits between the past and present, the present being a police investigation intertwined with flashbacks leading up to the brutal climax. Using this format ramps up the growing tension, keeping the intrigue at a steady pace, in turn ensuring the viewer remains on the edge of their seat anticipating the next trajectory the plot will take.
Rowntree drip feeds clues to make the audience think that the story is heading in a certain direction then pulls the rug from underneath with a set of unexpected plot choices. It’s recommended to go in knowing very little about the plot beforehand to experience its full impact. Its refreshing to view a film that challenges its audience and avoids becoming predictable, offering up something much more inventive.
Rowntree impressively combines genre, proving that Nefarious is far from a standard horror film. In fact, it takes its time to get to that point allowing for a welcome slow-burn.
The visuals of the film prove interesting with some experimental post-production colour grading choices. The opening sequence contains trippy psychedelic imagery, intercut with the main titles, setting off an alternative indie vibe to the piece. The title sequence slickly transitions into the main action introducing the low-budget, British drama feel it encompasses.
As previously mentioned, the performances feel naturalistic and it’s as if we have stumbled upon real people, experiencing real life problems. The standout performance is of course Gregory A. Smith as Clive, a vulnerable adult trying to make sense of the unfairly cruel world around him. Smith plays him with conviction and innocence. Complimenting Smith is Toby Wynn-Davies as his older brother, Marcus who appears quite stone-faced in the sense of pushing his brother out into the world despite him struggling socially. Buck Braithwaite is an intimidating presence as Darren, an unhinged young man struggling to make ends meet so falls into the murky world of crime, soon realising he is out of his depth.
Without revealing too much, there are some stomach-churning practical effects that leave little to the imagination which will undoubtably please gore hounds.
Rowntree set out to make a film that provides a commentary on the socio-economic divide and how class and wealth or the lack of can influence a person’s position in modern day society. He has executed his point well within an exceedingly compelling psychological crime drama/thriller that transforms into true, nail-biting horror.