|Honestly, "Temptation is Damnation"|
is the opposite of both the theme of
this film, and indeed, all of Scripture
Such is certainly the case with 2009's The Familiar. Writer-Director Miles Hannon's only film to date (though he has done editing on others, like The End of the Spear) is fairly ambitious for an evangelical movie. Starring Bryan Massey (W.'s "Skeeter") and Laura Spencer ("Zoe," Dylan Dog: Dead of Night), The Familiar follows hard-drinking, widowed gunsmith Sam -- an ex-preacher -- as he struggles to understand his own personal demons, and ultimately the literal demons plaguing his dead wife's sister.
Sam is the estranged son of an evangelist (Ben Hall, Fingerprints), the best friend of the town Sheriff, Charlie (Jeff West, who apparently hasn't been in anything else ever, but has a great face), and slowly spiraling into permanent stupor. At least, until his sister-in-law shows up on his doorstep, looking for some closure. Laura had been estranged from her sister (Sam's wife Katherine, played by Stephanie Young) since long before the accident that took her life. Now a spiritualist looking for enlightenment, Laura wants to reconnect with Sam, the only family she has left.
Predictably, the two become attracted to each other, even as Laura begins to succumb to the whims of a demon named Rallo, who she unwittingly summoned trying to help Sam. As things come to a head, Rallo begins to manifest itself in more physical ways, even posing danger to Sam and his friends.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I fired up the Netflix. I was surprised, at least a little, that I hadn't even heard of the movie until recently. Overall, it wasn't a bad movie. The idea, though not necessarily original, was at least executed in a different way. The acting wasn't bad/wasn't great, though at times it seemed to highlight some of the absurdities in the script.
One thing I noticed right away, while there is almost no language in the movie, where it does exist, it comes solely out of the mouth of Sam, who seems uncomfortable with using it. Perhaps this is because it is mostly unnecessary, and seems as though it was written into the script for the sole purpose of escaping a Child-friendly rating.
As far as family-friendliness, this was the only real hangup to the movie. There were some risque elements, a hint at nudity (but just that -- no actual nudity, for parents worried about exposing their kids to it), and almost no real violence. I read somewhere that the movie was rated R, but I doubt it. Netflix lists it as unrated, and I'd go PG-13, tops. Barely.
The movie can feel heavy-handed at times -- even for an evangelical film -- though I'd be hard-pressed to pinpoint exactly where they could have done it differently. The fact is, you can't do a Gospel film without the Gospel, and particularly when it comes to Spiritual Warfare, it is vitally important to the plot. Still, there were stretches of preachiness which were largely unnecessary, in the forms of both unsubtle subtext and overt dialogue.
Still, the overall message of grace and redemption is worthwhile, and for its faults, I'd still recommend The Familiar as at least worth a look.