Review: Onus - a film by Swindon filmmaker Alex Secker

By Jamie Hill - 1 July 2020

Arts and Culture

When she agrees to accompany her girlfriend to visit her wealthy family, trainee nurse Anna (Daniella Faircloth) begins to suspect that her presence may have more to do with ritual sacrifice than it does meeting the parents.

Written and directed by Swindonian Alex Secker, and produced by Marcus Starr, the team behind post-apocalyptic thriller Follow the Crows, comes ONUS, a modern day folk horror.

The film stars the aforementioned Daniella Faircloth, as well as Erin Leighton, Alex Pitcher, Karen Payne, Shaniece Williams and Tony Manders. The film, distributed by High Octane Pictures, will be released in the US and Canada before being sold into other territories, including the UK.

If you needed to describe the film in five words it would be 'Get Out meets Wicker Man' being as the plot revolves around a girlfriend bringing her lover home to meet the family who aren't all they seem.

But that's as far as the similarities go, as this locally made film is an altogether simpler affair with a small cast and a constrained location. On the screen you can see the budgetary constraints that the film-makers were under hence the small cast and single 'country house' location. But director Alex Secker deals with these constraints with aplomb to create a genuinely creepy atmosphere using clever camera positioning and a great use of sound to build up the tension throughout. One particular extended dream sequence ratchets up the horror to fever pitch with the screen flickering like a strobe light with horrific images burnt onto your cornea almost subliminally.

For anyone who watches horror films there are many familiar tropes here and the plot doesn't really offer us many surprises but that could be more to do with the budgetary constraints than anything else as there were definitely times where an expansion of the world might have helped.

Particular credit must go to the main protaganist Daniella Faircloth who acts as our eyes and ears to this strange new world. She essentially carries the film and as the plot moves forward it is through her facial expressions that we are able to see the magnitude of her dire situation.

The rest of the cast are pretty good (especially Alex Pitcher and Erin Leighton) apart from the matriarch of the family played by Karen Payne whose wooden actiing ability unfortunately takes the viewer out of the reality of the situation every time she opens her mouth. It was like they had just dragged someone off the street who had never acted before and it showed.

But these are minor quibbles in what in the main was an enjoyable yarn. Praise needs to go to Alex Secker for creating this film with such budgetary constraints and we can all hope that his talent is rewarded in the future with a bigger budget and more freedom to express his creativity.

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