Freehold (FrightFest 2017)


FreeholdStarring Javier Botet, Mim Shaikh, Mandeep Dhillon, Michael McKell

Directed by Dominic Bridges

In a film inspired by its director’s horrendous experience with less-than-reputable estate agents, it’s little surprise to find that the subject of Freehold’s torment, Hussein (Shaikh), is himself a morally unsound property broker – willing to bend the rules or drop the occasional white lie if it manages to secure a commission payment.

There’s a sense that Hussein isn’t quite the high flier he likes to think he is, however – his wide-boy arrogance regularly pegged on a quiet, personal level by the actions of an unknown lodger in his apartment.

Yes, Hussein has a creeper! Residing inside the wall at back of Hussein’s closet is gangly Spanish immigrant Orlan (Botet), who unfolds from his hiding space during the night – and in the day while Hussein is at work – to discreetly hang out, treating himself to tiny portions of Hussein’s food, use of his toothbrush, towels, mouthwash and more in increasingly grotesque ways.

When Hussein’s girlfriend, Mel (Dhillon), comes to stay, Orlan’s campaign ramps up in both comedic and disturbing ways – ranging from leaving gay porn in the history on her laptop to the depositing of horrendously sticky bodily fluids in her underwear – all of which naturally point to her only supposed companion in the home as the culprit.

It seems Orlan is on a quest to destroy Hussein, not just personally, but also professionally – the tragic (and despicable) reason for which is only divulged through Orlan’s narrated conversations between two pigeons who regularly perch themselves on the windowsill of Hussein’s apartment.

Freehold is an unnerving and sombre affair on one level, yet marked with a streak of wholly dark wit – the kind that sees you simultaneously laughing and wincing, perhaps even gagging at the thought of some of Orlan’s actions. But in a surprising turn it’s rarely, if ever, particularly mean-spirited, something that very much works in its favour as Bridges avoids the temptation to wrap things up with a stereotypical clash.

Key to the film’s success is its cast, all of whom nary miss a beat with their performances. Shaikh is wonderful as the progressively more bewildered and beleaguered Hussein, as is Dhillon as Mel – the arguments between the two proving hilariously naturalistic as Orlan’s campaign increases in severity. Botet, the performer behind a number of genre creations including Mama’s titular entity and The Conjuring 2’s Crooked Man, is perfectly cast – his unique physicality playing directly into the intended effect of his character’s behaviour. If it weren’t for him, Freehold would likely miss the lion’s share of the impact it enjoys.

Those expecting a straight horror film, or much in the way of violence and bloodshed, will be sorely disappointed with Freehold – this is pitch black, tragic comedy through and through. Bridges may let the pacing slip a little as the third act comes around the bend, and the ending may be slightly too ambiguous for some, but that’s little complaint for what is a remarkably well handled debut feature – one with more than a little to say about ethics, greed, and British society in general.

As absorbing as it is repellent, and as hilarious as it is dark as night, Freehold is one film you should welcome under your roof.

  • Film
User Rating 2.63 (8 votes)


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