Failure! – FrightFest 2023

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer and Director: Alex Kahuam

What is a rich dad to do when the future of his family as well as his factory empire are threatened? Of course, things in Alex Kahuam’s 90-minute film get a little messy for James as he deals with hostile takeovers, henchmen and his beloved daughter’s wedding all in real time. Divided into three chapters, Kahuam’s movie Failure! utilises a single-shot approach to create drive and tensions, exploring the pecunious demands of senior management and the balance of family life.

With only a few hours to complete a major business deal, James is having a very busy morning fielding guests and phone calls every few minutes. First, his son-in-law to be arrives with his groomsmen to discuss the impending wedding and later a variety of men waiting to discuss the factory sale.

Kahuam’s film has a particular wry humour, largely focused arounds its cool and surprisingly unperturbed leading man Ted Raimi playing James. And it is a performance that presents many layers to James, making him, to an extent, the sympathetic protagonist but at the same time revelling in his ruthless side, a characteristic that extends behind the sale of the factory to men as unscrupulous as himself. The camera certainly loves him, the unruffled and collected demeanour, holding Kahuam’s lens as it follows him through the story, continuously recalculating his options and doing what has to be done.

Filmed in muted colours, the appeal of Failure! is its single-shot approach, the camera moving with the lead actors around the downstairs rooms of his home. Like Rope and 1917 before it, this gives the film an immersive quality, controlling the point of view and creating tensions particularly in the moments where the camera lingers as James goes upstairs or enters rooms ahead of the viewer, giving him time to take in and adjust to the scene before the audience does. Kahuam has done a fine job of concealing cuts and edits, maintaining the film’s style throughout

The plot and characterisation are however quite simplistic, relying on the shock violence to maintain investment in James’s factory and family plans without providing much of the backstory. What happens in the 90-minutes is all the audience is given and although there are hints the factory is failing – as the title suggests – little broader explanation is given about James’s life or why his only option is to sell it, nor why the boss of a rival organisation is so willing to pay over the odds for it as some form of leverage.

Kahuam applies an interesting technique to his film that holds the audience’s attention but the subtly of this and Raimi’s lead performance is in tension with the wacky and sudden violence that punctuate the story. Failure! Is a clever film but not always a clear one.

Failure!had its World Premiere at Frightfest

The Reviews Hub Score:

Wry humour

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The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

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