Written by Luke Green @Lukey1978)
Charismata is a new independent British horror/thriller, which follows a young detective, Rebecca Faraway, as she and her colleagues investigate the gruesome crimes of a ritualistic serial killer. As the case progresses, Faraway’s behaviour becomes more erratic, causing her and those around her to question her sanity. To explain any further would definitely mean revealing too much and spoiling proceedings.
The film is a first directorial collaboration between co-directors Andy Collier and Tor Mian, both of whom mainly have a history in short film, although Mian has directed two features previously (The Sky in Bloom, 2013 and The Milky Way, 2015). Collier states that Charismata probably falls into the category “micro-budget”, but does not look it. Collier might be biased, but he is right. The story and approach to telling it do not require exotic locations or huge special effects extravaganzas (although there are a couple of decent gory props here). Indeed, Charismata has a distinctly British feel of the kitchen sink to it, which only helps convey the grubbiness of the subject matter and perhaps casts a truer reflection on the day-to-day drudgery of police work.
Collier and Mian also share writing credits. Mian has said that there is a greater satisfaction of being able to direct something you have written yourself and it’s an approach which seems logical. It certainly works here; the humour included is well timed and well delivered by the cast (although sometimes a little clunky) and the camaraderie and relationships between Faraway and her colleagues are represented well. The most obvious example of this is the interaction between Faraway and her skipper, Eli Smith. Smith is a wind-up merchant and often acts like a mischievous little boy, despite his seniority in rank to Faraway. However, Smith is played with aplomb by Andonis Anthony (who very nearly steals the show from Sarah Beck Mather, who plays Faraway) and he manages to convey that, behind the silly exterior, Smith is somebody who really cares. If the film had been directed by a third party, who perhaps did not have as nuanced an understanding of the script, then it is not inconceivable that Smith might have ended up just being portrayed as an arsehole.
As with any project where there is not the need or budget for huge spectacle, the emphasis is really on the cast to deliver the story. Luckily, there are some fantastic performances here. Sarah Beck Mather is excellent as DC Faraway, fleshing out the character into a young officer who is already world weary and knackered, putting on a facade everyday to deal with work and the piss-taking from her work colleagues – in much the same way that Smith puts on the naughty boy facade behind which he hides. It is this smooth coming together of writing, directing and acting which is Charismata’s main strength and which helps lift the characters beyond the one-dimensional goons that are often found populating genre films.
Jamie Satterthwaite also gives an impressive, scenery chewing turn as a posh boy bad guy, all sleazy, self-assured charm until he shows his true, mad eyed, deluded self.
David Peel and Ethan Chapples deserve an honourable mention for providing able comic relief in the shape of two other detectives and Johnny Vivash is entertaining as a hapless red herring.
Currently awaiting release, Charismata is well worth checking out. It provides a fresh new angle on the police / serial killer trope and it is credit to the writing that its 100 minute run time does not seem overlong despite the lack of explosions and car chases. The ending comes a bit out of left field, leaving some of the audience I saw it with audibly confused, but that’s a small criticism.