Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Aware (2008) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
One of the attractive things about the horror genre is that it is so accessible to new filmmakers, with low budget offerings finding it comparatively easy to attract audiences. Sadly, it has to be said that the majority of those offerings still don't stand up to much scrutiny. Awkward, self-conscious posturing, overly hasty editing, cliched narrative and embarrassed humour are the order of the day. How refreshing it is, then, to see a film like The Aware, made on the astoundingly low budget of £400, which has none of these flaws, and which really has something to say.
The Aware is the story of Gary, a young man living alone in Edinburgh and trying to piece together the fragments of broken relationships. He's getting by, but the discovery of a dead body during a trip to the Highlands catapults him into more dangerous psychological territory. Gary doesn't report the body. Instead he takes the video camera and tapes it was holding and, watching them, is drawn into a terrible secret. Yet as the story unfolds we cannot help but wonder how long Gary has been keeping related secrets of his own. What looks immediately dangerous to the viewer is something of a relief to him. He is a victim in waiting, and as his altered experience takes hold he begins to experience visions which, though terrifying, may eventually help him to understand how he found himself here.
Not conventional horror, in that it doesn't focus on trying to be scary but, rather, on telling its story (with plenty of incidentally disturbing stuff which spills over into the world outside the cinema), The Aware relies on a fractured narrative which doesn't always do its job. It was shot in just nine days and many scenes seem rushed, just a little too clumsy, as if they might have benefited from extra takes.
It's a really impressive piece of work from then 19-year-old director Dall, but his lack of experience is nevertheless visible on screen. Added to this are serious problems with lighting (perhaps it wasn't the best idea to start out with a story so much of which happens in the dark) and with the sound, with volume levels shifting awkwardly between scenes. The soundtrack is well put together but sometimes intrusive (largely due to that volume problem) and the low quality DV footage, in combination with that narrative, means that it can be difficult to tell what's going on even when that doesn't seem to be intentional. There's a section about a third of the way through the film which really drags, but after that it picks up again and confidently handled editing makes the best of the available material, helping to restore its emotional impact.
The other major problem with low budget films is, of course, bad acting, but the only really weak link in this is the exposition man who appears toward the end. Given the nature of the speech he has to make, perhaps it's understandable that he sounds as if he's reciting it straight from the page. As Gary, Mads Koudal works fairly well, and there are some good supporting performances (one of them from Eye For Film's own Craig McFarlane!)
The Aware isn't going to blow anybody away, but if you're looking for a thought-provoking horror film to watch with friends, you could certainly do a lot worse. Considering its origins, it's really a stunning piece of work, and one can only hope that Dall pursues his filmmaking ambitions further.Reviewed on: 16 Apr 2008