Director: Pedro C. Alonso
Screenplay: Pedro C. Alonso, Alberto Marini
Starring: Eddie Marsan, Ivana Baquero, Paul Anderson, Richard Brake, Oliver Coopersmith, Anthony Head
Duration: 97 min
BBFC Certification: 18
Co-written by one of the Producers behind the [REC] franchise, Feedback, the directorial debut from Pedro C. Alonso, offers a different take on the ‘people trapped inside a building with dangerous creatures’ riff that defined the hit Spanish horror films. With Feedback, creepily masked humans have replaced infected zombies and we no longer find ourselves trapped in a dingy Spanish apartment block; instead, Feedback takes place entirely within the confines of a swanky English radio studio. Despite the change of location and language, the same sense of claustrophobic tension that characterised the [REC] films has thankfully not been lost in translation.
Feedback begins as it means to go on, opening with a combative scene set in the office of radio station owner Norman (a cameo from Anthony Head). Norman is forcing Jarvis (Eddie Marsan) a popular late night talk show host, to team up once more with Andrew (Paul Anderson) his boorish former presenting partner. After finally conceding, Jarvis begins his nightly show. When his Producer suddenly vanishes while Jarvis is live on air, he soon realises that the studio has been taken hostage by men wearing unnerving, flesh coloured masks. They have clearly come prepared to cause trouble. Wielding both shotguns and sledgehammers, they let Jarvis know that they are not going to let him leave until he admits live on air to a dark truth about his past…
To say too much more would be to ruin the numerous twists and turns of the narrative. Feedback is a film that takes great pleasure in wrong-footing its audience and delights in either keeping them on their toes or making their stomaches churn with sudden bursts of the old ultra violence. Despite the confined, almost stage like setting of its location, the film remains consistently engaging and gripping, thanks to stylish, skilful direction by Alonso and great performances from Marsan and Anderson.
Feedback actually works best when it uses its rather unique location to its advantage. There is a great sequence that takes place behind the studio’s walls (the claustrophobic would do best to look away at this point) and various rooms walled with sound-proofing foam makes for some striking looking sets. Alonso constantly makes great use of the limited space he has to work with, ensuring that the visuals never tire or go stale.
Unfortunately the same kind of skill was not applied to the actual plot, which proves to be Feedback’s weakest link. While the story and situation is engaging enough to keep you watching, it is the kind of story that falls apart under the merest hint of scrutiny. Plot holes frequently rear their ugly head (is it really believable that a radio studio could be held hostage and forced to broadcast shocking revelations and no one outside the studio, either station bosses or building security, would check to see what is going on?) and some characters are forced make bizarre decisions, seemingly made only to extend the film’s running time rather than serving any kind of logic.
The antagonistic intruders, too, eventually prove to be problematic. While their grievance with Jarvis deals with an important contemporary issue, as their quest for justice increases in brutality, their moral authority begins to be severely undermined, where the line between victim and villain starts to get blurred. You don’t know whether this is meant to be a point about the futility of revenge or just bad writing.
Thankfully the performances save the day almost as much as Alonso’s creative exploitation of the cramped sets. Marsan provides a typically faultless performance, full of combative grit and wiry intelligence, while Anderson offers another variation of the damaged Arthur Selby from Peaky Blinders, here appearing not as a gangster but as a sad kind of Britpop casualty. Prolific character actor Richard Brake, playing one of the intruders, elicits a great deal of sympathy that feels refreshingly different from the twisted villains he usually plays (certainly showing more warmth here than The Night King in Game of Thrones). He is by far the most interesting character and it is a shame he is not explored in more depth. Ivana Baquero also fares well, combining wrath with an angry vulnerability (as well as providing the film’s most exciting twist – she is the girl from Pan’s Labyrinth!).
The more the tension mounts and as events gradually spiral into violence, the more Feedback looses control of the dark, twisted story that lies at its heart. It ultimately does not make as much impact as it would like thanks to an, at times, confused and convoluted plot, which asks important questions but does not end up with any original answers. Its eventual conclusion, too, may be hard for some to stomach. Yet despite its flaws, it remains a brutal, stylish little thriller for those looking for a quick adrenaline shot of a movie on a Saturday night.
Feedback is released on Amazon Prime Video from 26th March and can be viewed via this link: https://amz.run/4Q99