Edinburgh International Film Festival



This debut feature from Royal Conservatoire of Scotland film graduate Rodger Griffiths throws everything into the blender – yes, even a title sequence using the now-clichéd, Scandi Noir-style aerial shot of swaying treetops – but still manages to produce a taut and original feeling thriller. Neat feints and well-placed moments of misdirection keep the viewer guessing, and among the ingredients in that metaphorical blender are flashbacks, visions, multiple points of view and elements of folk horror. Again, these are verging on cliché. On the other hand, what cinemagoer doesn’t enjoy the visceral thrill of seeing a desolate forest clearing strung up with pelts, animal skulls and women’s clothes?

Farmer and keen hunter Don (Paul Higgins, playing against type) is father to three adult sons. They are John (Brian Vernel), Henry (Daniel Portman) and youngest boy Vince (Calum Ross). We open with the four of them, all armed with hunting rifles, stalking a stag in the forest – only it turns out that Don is the real prey. The brothers have prepared the ground, tethered the animal, and dug a shallow grave ready for Don’s body. Why murder their own father? Because of the years of violent abuse he inflicted on them and on their mother, Kate (Anita Vettesse), now dead. The fortune he keeps in a heavy iron safe won’t go amiss, but that’s not the main reason.

The patricidal scheme goes more or less to plan, the only immediate hitch being the arrival of Don’s cousin Miller (James Harkness) looking for him and clearly suspicious about his absence. But then the boys realise that the key to the safe went into Don’s woodland grave with him, so someone is going to have to go and dig it up. Someone does and that’s when things take a turn for the weird, initially, and then the savage. Revenge can backfire.

Griffiths’ themes aren’t hard to discern – toxic masculinity, fathers and sons, the way abuse perpetuates and corrupts – but they are deployed strategically, and the nimble script never labours the point. The film has heft, but carries it lightly. Quite a debut, and clearly a director to watch.