She dropped into their lives without warning, unasked for, uninvited, and unwanted as far as Donna and Michael are concerned, but they have no say in the matter, Coral installed in the family home by their father Richard “until mom feels better,” but while Michael protests and asks for the return of their mother Donna is older and more cynical, unafraid to show her resentment of the interloper, the cuckoo in the nest.
Would it be worse if Coral tried to ingratiate herself, to replace their mother, or is she exactly what she seems, cold and insensitive, indifference given form, her expressionless face hidden behind her therapy mask, like something which has studied rather than experienced how to be human, her mannerisms awkward when she deigns to glance up from where she lounges in her fur-cuffed pink silk pyjamas.
Youngest of the family, Michael bears the brunt, increasingly isolated when Richard is away on business and Donna spends time with her boyfriend, pointedly ignored by Coral whose own behaviour is becoming stranger even as he becomes convinced that there is something else in the house with them, another presence trying to gain a foothold and replace him, manifesting in the dark and whispering between the crackles of the television static.
From its deceptively jaunty opening scene of Michael and Donna watching classic cartoons, nothing in Father of Flies seems safe, the bare trees framing the lone house against the wintery sky, Michael and Donna (Keaton Tetlow and Page Ruth) the only saving breath of normality in the palace of the newly installed queen who regards her courtiers with disdain.
Directed by Ben Charles Edwards from a script co-written with Nadia Doherty and inspired by his own difficult childhood experiences, Father of Flies echoes the tale of Hansel and Gretel, Camilla Rutherford’s enigmatic Coral both the wicked stepmother and the witch, Michael’s only ally the crazy-haired widow Mrs Start (Colleen Heidemann) next door, Donnie Darko’s Roberta Sparrow exiled to Midwich where her whispered warnings go unheard beneath the thunder.
A nightmare of shifting spaces filled with an expanding darkness and the twin fears of abandonment and madness, with each of the characters increasingly isolated through tragedy and the aftermath, if there is nobody around them to share their experiences and memories how can any of them be sure if anything they remember really happened?
Having been shown at Grimmfest, Father of Flies will screen at ScreamFest LA and Raindance Film Festival prior to wide release in 2022