Director: Joseph Sims-Dennett
Screenwriters: Joseph Sims-Dennett and Josh Zammit
Runtime: 90 mins.
Australian release date: 3 April 2016
In a Rear Window-like set up, Parker (Lindsay Farris) takes a job keeping tabs on a young woman Tenneal (Stephanie King). He takes up residence in an abandoned terrace house across the street from her, sets up his camera and listening devices, and waits for something to happen. Not much does, so when his unseen employer (voiced by Brendan Cowell) rings and asks him to keep watch for a few days longer, he accepts because the job’s a doddle and he needs the money. He’s heavily in debt because he’s recently lost his young son to an undisclosed illness and he’s yet to pay the medical bills. Soon enough, things do indeed start happening, only not to Tenneal - strange things begin occurring in Parker’s own little hidey-hole, making you wonder who’s really being observed here!
You’ve got to admire director Joseph Sims-Dennett’s belief in his script, which he co-wrote with producer Josh Zammit, but in fact it’s pretty thin material. While we glean small bits of information about the characters, we never get the whole story. Not a bad thing in a horror film, I hear you say and it’s true, but at least we need to learn enough to care about someone in the movie and, in this case, we never do. It’s also somewhat off-putting for Australian viewers to hear North American accents coming from the mouths of actors when they’re in such recognisably Aussie locations. Apart from the accents, there’s not much of an effort been made by the production designers for the rest of the film to appear American, eg. house numbers, number plates, and so on.
Technically, the best thing Observance has going for it is its sound design, thanks to Sound Editors David Gaylard and David Williams and the music of Adrian Sergovich and Haydn Walker. If you are seeking the expected ‘things that go bump in the night,’ probably the best way to watch this movie is with your eyes shut and ears wide open - in other words, don’t ‘observe,’ listen.