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The Independent Critic

Lindsay Farris, Stephanie King, Brendan Cowell, John Jarratt
Joseph Sims-Bennett
Joseph Sims-Bennett and Josh Zammit
83 Mins + 3 mins. extras
Artsploitation Films

 "Observance" Released by Artsploitation Films 
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The debut feature film from Australian filmmaker Joseph Sims-Bennett, Observance was picked up by Philly-based indie distributor Artsploitation Films for a DVD/Blu-ray release after a successful festival run that included such noteworthy fests as Fantasia International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Oldenburg Film Festival and a host of others. Noted for its almost meditative sense of dread, one could easily lay claim that Observance serves up shades of Polanski or Hitchcock with its psychologically horrifying tale of a troubled private investigator (Lindsay Farris) assigned to observe a woman from an abandoned apartment that may, in fact, not be so completely abandoned. 

Observance will work best for those who can appreciate horror that slowly simmers and builds, though I would argue that Observance builds slowly and that slow simmer allows for its faults to be more easily observed. 

While Observance has plenty of atmosphere, the film comes up shortly when it comes to anything resembling a cohesive story and characters that make me want to keep watching. The film's use of imagery is significant, though devoid of the kind of meaning that ties everything together. 

Observance benefits greatly from Rodrigo Vidal-Dawson's creative and suspenseful lensing work, while the sound design team deserves special kudos for taking the film in rather electrifying places in terms of sound. 

Observance is the kind of film that almost inevitably has big fans and major haters, though I'm likely somewhere in the middle with an appreciation for what Sims-Bennett was aiming for but a sense of frustration that certain elements simply didn't come together as much as I'd have liked in order to fully surrender to the film. 

A solid first effort from Sims-Bennett, Observance is a tremendous calling card for the filmmaker and proof positive that you can make quality, suspenseful horror on a modest budget (said to be $11,000). For more information on the film, visit the Artsploitation website linked to in the credits. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic

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