In Films by Samuel Love

Director Alex Kahuam returns to London’s beloved horror festival FrightFest with the psychological thriller Failure!, a single 87-minute one-shot film. While there’s no denying the film is an expertly-choreographed achievement, the Ted Raimi-starrer otherwise threatens to live up to its title.

The film follows James (Raimi), buried in debt and given a horrible ultimatum – a choice between financial ruin, or murder, to protect his family. Given one hour to decide, James’ entire world unravels as he is pulled in multiple directions by various people in his life, some of whom may be all in his head.

Filming ‘Failure!’ was challenging because the tension in this thriller is built around 87 tight pages shot in one single take. No cuts, no tricks – one mistake at minute 86 and we would have to start all over again”, Raimi says, and it’s an admirable achievement to see the film pulled off (even if this is achieved every day in theatre). The film is impeccably shot, with all of the action taking place within the claustrophobic confines of a beautiful, large country home and its grounds. The choreography of capturing all the action must have been incredibly challenging to achieve, but seldom falters – here is a crew that know how to shoot a film. Those who suffer from motion sickness should approach with caution, though, as the film can get a little frenetic. 

Raimi is superb, carrying the entire thing on his back. As desperation and rage takes over, Raimi delivers perhaps his finest performance to date in a film built entirely around him. It’s hard not to be compelled by his work here. But unfortunately, almost every performer around him is jarringly wooden, creating an uncomfortable film that often feels like watching an amateur dramatics society. The tension is intended to be created entirely around the interpersonal conflicts, Raimi is often given nothing to work with and the tension fails to take hold as a result. It’s a shame, because the script offers a lot of promise. In more experienced hands, it could’ve been compelling. Here, it’s tedious. Possibly in an attempt to remedy this, an overused musical score is blasted into the film frequently but the result isn’t anything other than irritating. 

Ted Raimi does his best with what – and who – he’s given, but unfortunately, the film fails entirely based on the supporting cast. They, by extension, cause the film’s pacing and script to suffer considerably and make the film a slog. Failure! is an admirable achievement on the technical side, but falls apart in almost every other area. Perhaps not a total failure, then, but it certainly comes close.