As far as claustrophobic thrillers go, Freehold is about as straight up as they get.
Retitled from the significantly less sensical Two Pigeons, Dominic Bridges’ debut feature takes the whole idea of unwanted house guests to repulsive new levels, and all in the name of some pretty apt comedy. Two men live together, but only one of them knows it; it’s a basic, familiar but decidedly clever set-up that Bridges finds a lot of fun with, but really little else in the long run.
Mim Shaikh’s Hussein is a hyper-ambitious estate agent who leaves his morals at the door, ripping off the locals at every opportunity. Javier Botet (the sensationally talented physical performer behind the likes of The Conjuring’s Crooked Man and a whole host of other horror movie nasties) is one of his many victims, who one day nestles himself between the walls of Hussein’s apartment, and patiently waits for the perfect moment to exact his much-welcome revenge. And that’s pretty much it.
The meat of the movie comes almost entirely from the comedy and paranoia of Botet creeping around the flat in question, committing all sorts of disgusting guest faux pas that would no doubt have any and every home-owner squirming in their seats. He urinates on cutlery, puts toothbrushes in particularly unsanitary places, and basically just messes with Hussein in every way he can possibly fathom. Totally unaware of his ghostly presence, Hussein gradually starts to lose his marbles one by one, surrendering to what eventually becomes a fairly aggressive mental breakdown.
Whether that last bit is supposed to be funny or not no doubt largely relies on the audience, but the more and more of Hussein’s humanity we’re subjected to throughout (unavoidable really, since he’s one of the only characters in a movie set in one confined space), the less and less the ongoing revenge ruminates.
There’s definitely a line, not necessarily in the severity of Botet’s character’s actions, but more in the volume of them. At first it’s almost comforting to see such a horrible person be messed with in such a delectable way, but there reaches a point when you’re just kicking someone when they’re down, and Bridges never quite seems to know when to call time on the cruelty.
Although to be fair, without it, Freehold doesn’t really have much else going on. There’s a very well-managed use of space, and Botet’s performance has a lot more behind it than meets the eye, but otherwise it’s a film that exists almost purely to show off a bunch of unsuspecting pranks. If you’re into that sort of thing, there’s plenty here to enjoy, and the pranks themselves prove just as disgusting and creepy as they are funny. But without much else to stand-on, Freehold just feels very one note.
Freehold was screened as part of Horror Channel FrightFest 2017.