DVD Review: OBSERVANCE Is An Intriguing Psychological Chiller

3.5 out of 5 stars


Observance is an atmospheric Australian (although US-set) chiller from director Joseph Sims-Dennett. It follows Parker (Lindsay Farris), a private detective on a well paying gig as he keeps an eye on a woman (Stephanie King) from the building across the street. Parker is haunted by the death of his young son, but soon he is haunted by much worse as he begins to have a series of visions which may all be in his mind, or emanating from the derelict apartment in which he is staying.

Likened to the work of Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock (Rear Window is an obvious influence), Observance is filled with paranoia and desperation. Sims-Dennett’s film moves at a very deliberate pace, unveiling the plot piece by piece. In many ways it reminded me of Angel Heart (and the book Fallen Angel by William Hjortsberg on which Alan Parker’s film is based), as both are psychological thrillers which feature a private investigator as a central protagonist. It also seems that the characters in the stories are predestined to follow their specific paths, no matter what occurs.

Both Lindsay Farris and Stephanie King have tricky roles in Observance, as they have to spend large swathes of screen-time on their own. However, they manage to hold the screen and deliver honest performances which could easily have been over-played or made too broad. There isn’t a great deal of dialogue in the film and it’s the little, quiet moments which build the tension and lead to strong sense of foreboding. It’s a credit to Joseph Sims-Dennett that he’s able to make Observance so visually interesting. Shot over a paltry eleven days, this could have been a very boring looking piece, but he’s able to deliver some strong moments which call to mind the screen work of Clive Barker.

Observance is a much a film about the human condition as it is a horror and it’s a well made low budget film that manages to keep you hooked throughout. Joseph Sims-Dennett, along with co-writer Josh Zimmet has crafted something has a lot of genre touch-points, but manages to feel fresh and unique – and that’s often a rare thing when you’re dealing with horror.

Special Features 

Observance comes with a making-of featurette and a trailer.