Frightfest: Cerebrum (2022)

Director: Sébastien Blanc

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Starring: Steve Oram, Tobi King Bakare, Ramona Von Pusch, Stephanie Lodge, Chandrika Chevli

In the dead of night, William (Tobi King Bakare) witnesses his mother (Ramona Von Pusch) approaching from the woods before he's tied to a chair and left in the path of a speeding car. Writer/director Sébastien Blanc opens his feature-debut in attention grabbing fashion, before revealing it as a dream sequence when William awakes from a coma.

As an unrevealed accident left him unable to speak, William returns home with his father Richard (Steve Oram) to adapt to a new reality that's been changed in an instance. Blanc keeps revelations close to the chest, slowly unveiling mysteries regarding the accident, why William cannot see his mother, and what mysterious figure lurks in the dark.

The circumstances weigh heavily on both father and son, as Bakare effectively captures William's wordless guilt while Oram terrifically conveys how Richard is unwilling to let go of the past. Unspoken hurt lingers among them, as they're unable to deal with their pain while their tough relationship leaves them reluctant to open up to each other. A memorable moment sees them trying to laugh their pain away, yet it's clear they're clutching at straws as they struggle to cope.

Much interest is generated through the mystery, which makes it a shame how the revelations deliver familiar ideas with an unsatisfactory execution. A bewildering choice is made to repeatedly show the entity topless whenever they appear, leading to a final sequence which should be the emotional culmination yet unfortunately feels too by-the-numbers to work. There's promise in Blanc's work, with the strongest moments focusing on the father and son haunted by the manifestation of their grief.

Cerebrum made its World Premiere at Frightfest 2022