Color, 2015, 86m.
Directed by Joseph Sims-Dennett
Starring Lindsay Farris, Stephanie King, Brendan Cowell, John Jarrat, Benedict Hardie, Tom O'Sullivan
Artsploitation (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)


ObservanceThis unusual Australian contribution to the long cinematic tradition of "person going crazy in an apartment" stories perfected by Roman Polanski manages to throw a little bit of a variation into the mix courtesy of some Rear Window-style voyeurism. A private eye who's left the business as his life has hit a wall due to his son's death and demolished marriage, Parker (Farris) gets back in the game with an unusual assignment.

Holed up in a rotting, abandoned apartment building with newspapers lining the walls, Parker sets up a camera and audio recorder to monitor the activities of Tenneal (King), for a total of seven days with instructions provided over the phone by his employer. However, the job soon goes south in a big way as he wakes up with a huge sore on his back and, in one memorable moment, fills an entire sink with slimy black vomit. Determined to stick it out to the end, he and his subject both end up on a course that will lead to a burst of horrific violence.

A lot of critics have been scratching their head over this one, though if you go into it knowing that everything won't be clearly explained from start to finish, it's Observancedefinitely easier to digest. If you can handle films like Kill List (which is admittedly a stronger piece of work), this shouldn't be much of a problem. Farris does a very solid job carrying the vast majority of the screen time, with King mainly acting as a passive object until the film takes a questionable shift in perspective in the final stretch. Observance(Why they adopt sort-of-American accents is never explained.) Visually and sonically it's top notch, employing a desaturated look for most of the running time with occasional sharp bursts of color (especially red) accompanied by David Lynch-worthy bits of skin-crawling aural manipulation on the soundtrack. Not for all tastes to be sure, but it's worth checking out if you want to see an Aussie horror film on the artier side.

Artsploitation Films brings this film to separate Blu-ray and DVD releases with a transfer that appears to accurately replicate the stylized look of the film with its grayish, earthy aesthetic, which isn't the prettiest but suitable for the subject matter. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio is flawless and will definitely make you look over shoulder a few times. Extras include the two-and-a-half-minute featurette "A Preface to Observance" with the two leads (who mainly chat about how they internalized the terror of their characters during the shoot) and bonus trailers for The Perfect Husband and Der Bunker.

Reviewed on August 11, 2016.