FRIGHTFEST 2019: The Grump Of Horror Reviews AUTOMATA

An antique expert is tasked with investigating if ‘The Infernal Princess,’ a clockwork doll is truly one that vanished nearly 300 years earlier. Taking his stepdaughter with him, to the remote estate, both begin to act strangely…

Automata was another film at FrightFest to receive its world premiere. The director, Lawrie Brewster was there to introduce the film, as well as other involved in its making. And in many ways, this is where I kind of feel sorry for those that do attend a festival with their film, proud to unleash it on the world. Because I really didn’t like it and judging from those around me, they didn’t like it either and you have to wonder how that sort of reaction makes them feel after.

In his introduction, Lawrie Brewster mentioned Hammer as an influence. But if Hammer had made this film, back at their peak, they could have made it work. They certainly would have done something about the story. To be fair to the writer, Sarah Daly, there is a good idea at the heart of the story. But it’s what is done with it that’s the problem. It also has to be said that the film’s dialogue caused laughter in the audience and I don’t think all of it was intended.

The film was made by Hex Studios which make films in Scotland. I’m not sure what their budget for the film was, but Brewster and his crew certainly push it out at times, with a period set battle that isn’t too bad actually.

But it’s after that admittedly impressive opening the problems begin. And keep coming.

The cast are, so far as I am aware, unknowns to me. And in truth, being brutal, I am not surprised. Jamie Scott Gordon places the Brendan, the expert and his performance is not good. His reactions to things happening around him are forced. According to his bio on the IMDB he has worked on several films, but based on his performance in this, it was as if this was his first time in front of a camera. I’ve seen more believable reactions from Steven Seagal!

Faring better is Victoria Lucie who plays Rose, the stepdaughter. In what is essentially a two-hander, she almost single handedly makes the film watchable. The rest of the cast are merely extras with few lines apart from one (we’ll get to him) and with the film resting on the two leads, she is the one doing the heavy lifting.

But here’s where the film begins having other problems. In the story, the influence of the doll begins to affect Rose and Brendan, driving them towards an incestuous relationship. However, what isn’t really made clear in the film, is how old Rose is meant to be here. I don’t know how old the actress is, but I do think she is perhaps playing younger, the question being how young. Sixteen? Eighteen? Older? Younger? Perhaps it’s just me, but I found that whole aspect, which to be fair to the film kind of, sort of made sense because of past events, still uncomfortable to watch at times. That may of course have been the intention of the writer and director, but it needed better performances, certainly from the actor playing Brendan to really work.

While Brewster does manage to create some good imagery at times and also a couple of effective jump moments, he’s let down by two things the film simply cannot overcome; it’s villain and the ending, the never-ending ending.

It’s credited as being a 95 minute film. I reckon you could have cut maybe 15-20 minutes out of the film and it would have worked so much better, because the film just doesn’t know when to end. The last act has so many dreams, or fantasies going on, I know I was getting totally confused. I’m not sure what the film was going for here, but for me it didn’t work at all.

And then there is the villain. While the period aspect of the story worked well, with a hint of a good tragic story there, in the modern setting part, when the villain does appear, he’s so over the top and overlit, he was on a par with the worst of Nicolas Cage!

By the end of the film I was getting so annoyed I nearly left, something I have never done. I usually stay to the bitter end, but it was close.

Automata takes its idea and then throws everything it can at it to make it work. But none of it really does. If it wasn’t for Victoria Lucie’s performance, I would have to say there’s little here to recommend. It does pain me to say it, but it I thought it a terrible film.

I mentioned at the beginning how the director mentioned Hammer. Well they or Roger Corman during his Poe adaptations might have been able to pull this off.

Sadly, they didn’t make the film. Certainly the worst film of the Glasgow FrightFest event.

Rating: * out of 5

Overal Rating

About Bill

Founder/Head Writer of The Horrorcist.

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