#TBBDoesRaindance2016 @DescantDeb Reviews British Horror-Thriller ‘Don’t Knock Twice’

don_t_knockFor my second dark fantasy of the week, Don’t Knock Twice was essential viewing for us. It’s the latest release from the award-winning Red and Black Films production company co-founded by TBB Favourite John Giwa-Amu (read TBB interview with him here).

This supernatural thriller is more Bechdel Test positivity from their stable – something we know is important to the R&BF boys, Giwa-Amu and co-founder and director of this offering, Caradog James. They have consistently put these values into practice, having set the precedent with such strong female characters as Ava (Caity Lotz) in The Machine (2013) and Shelley (Morfydd Clarke) in The Call Up (2016). The strong female here is the fabulous Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck in rebooted Battlestar Galactica, 2004-09) as main protagonist Jess, an insanely successful sculptress contending with inner demons.

It’s been 9 years since the nadir of her struggle, 9 years since she gave up her daughter to care, fearing for her safety in her own. Having tried several times, she now waits with nervous apprehension, to see if a teenage Chloe (Lucy Boynton and her huge green eyes, used to great effect) will allow her back into her life. She picks at her clay-caked cuticles as the care home worker makes small talk with Ben (Javier Botet) her new husband, willing to undertake the role of stepfather. She has been working with new mother Tira (Pooneh Hajimohammadi) who has been modelling for a new work – a mother and child. Tira, sensing Jess’s disquiet, gives her a talisman, explaining that it will allow a child to see the love in a mother’s heart.

Chloe, a talented artist herself, is full of anger, and ruthlessly rejects Jess, barely registering Ben. She retreats to hang out with long term friend, now boyfriend, Danny (relative newcomer of quality Jordan Bolger, Peaky Blinders, 2014-16, and soon to be seen in another Raindance selection The Habit Of Beauty, alongside Noel Clarke).  They reminisce about the local childhood pranks they would amuse themselves with, along with a boy called Michael Flowers (Gabriel Trimble). Danny, sensing Chloe’s melancholy, resolves to amuse her again and takes her along to the scene of their greatest adventure – a now abandoned house at the centre of an urban legend. Having once played knock-down-ginger there, Michael went missing and they were sure the old resident, Ginger, had taken him.  Danny decides the best way to lighten Chloe’s mood is for them to test the legend… So begins a game of cat-and-mouse, a rollercoaster ride on which James unnerves the viewer with measured revelations and misdirections.

Don’t Knock Twice respectfully borrows elements from Candyman (1992) and The Ring (2002) and techniques perfected by Sam Raimi – loud sound effects and jump scares, but doesn’t overdo it.  The title is an at-times heavy-handed recurring theme throughout, as a frightened Chloe hastily takes Jess up on her offer. What does work, is the added undercurrent of the two women’s circumstances and relationship, weaving in the issues of placing trust in estranged family members. In this case, it cleverly works both ways.

Having wooed the sci fi world with one of the trickier aspects of the Galactica reboot (replacing Dirk Benedict’s Starbuck), Sackhoff turns in a fine-spun, unexpected performance. She manages to keep you guessing as to whether she is ready to be mother to a troubled child and everything that it might cost, including trying working out the significance of Detective Boardman (Nick Moran). It feels a little at odds with the execution of some aspects of the story.

Don’t Knock Twice is a good looking, modern British psychological horror, which was 100% financed and test screened in Wales, and should be applauded (and supported by film goers and horror fans) for attempting to revive a genre that seems to have lost momentum after the quality renaissance of the Noughties – 28 Days Later (2002), Dog Soldiers (2002), Shaun of The Dead (2004), The Descent (2005), Eden Lake (2008), 28 Weeks Later (2007), and Kill List (2011).

Don’t Knock Twice had its market premiere in Cannes 2016 and will officially premiere in the UK as part of the Raindance Film Festival on Friday September 30th 2016 at the festival venue Vue Piccadilly (20:45 – 22:45). It is exhibiting as part of the official selection for the Narrative Strand.

For tickets, visit: https://raindance.ticketsolve.com/#/shows/873562192

It has yet to confirm a UK release date, but rumour suggests it may be in March 2017.

You can follow the film’s progress on social media:

Review for the british blacklist by  @DescantDeb