Exhibit A – Review
The timely story of a normal family disintegrating under financial pressure, eventually driven to the unimaginable. We witness the terrifying events unfold through daughter Judith's video camera, which subsequently becomes Exhibit A.
It’s the tenth of October 2022 and time for another entry in our KOween 31 Days of Halloween feature. Today we are taking a look at another Found Footage, the third found footage horror movie so far this October, in the form of award winning UK horror movie Exhibit A.
We are reviewing a horror movie a day for the entirety of October 2022 leading up to Halloween. These reviews will be shorter and more straight to the point than my standard format. We will feature a range of movies from horror classics to international hits and a few indie darlings. You can check out the entire KO-Ween feature by clicking right here.
Dom Rotheroe’s Exhibit A follows a family of four living in Northern England; mum Angela, Dad Andy, Son Joe and daughter Judith. Judith, played by Brittany Ashworth, has been gifted a video camera after her Dad, played by Bradley Cole, accidentally broke her old one. Judith begins documenting the everyday life of the family.
Andy, is a jovial guy and a big fan of traditional British comedy. He collects comedy memorabilia and often breaks out into impressions of English comedians. Andy has been chasing a promotion at work and, with the money from the promotion, he plans to move the family to the seaside. Judith, who is gay but has not come out to the family yet, dreads the idea as she has a crush on the next door neighbour Claire.
Andy returns home one day to the family waiting for him, champagne at the ready. Andy seems shocked but claims he was promoted and the family celebrate. Needing to sell the house, Angela, played by Sheila King, is shocked to come home to a digger in the garden. Andy has decided to put in a pool. He claims it will add value to the house but Angela is furious.
Things begin to unravel for the family but it seems that Andy is hiding something. The estate agent claims someone has made an offer on the seaside house the family have been trying to buy. This is, apparently, despite Andy saying he had already phoned to make his offer. Under pressure from Angela, Andy increases his offer by £10,000.
Having had no potential buyers for their home, the digging of the pool continues. The digger has broken so Judith and Joe, played by Oliver Lee, are digging manually. Joe falls into the foundation of the pool, something that greatly amuses Judith. Andy, seemingly desperate for money, claims they could have made £250 from You’ve Been Framed for that clip. He insists they film it again and try to make it look natural. After a number of attempts, Joe is in pain. Andy screams at Joe and claims he is selfish. It becomes very apparent that something is wrong with Andy but this is just the beginning of his decline.
Another Found Footage Gem
We’ve covered a number of found footage horror movies so far in our KOween 31 Days of Halloween feature. I’ll admit, I am a fan of found footage horror. Most of it is absolutely shite but there are some genuinely great examples out there. I have, however, tried to only include found footage that can stand up alongside actual horror movies.
Exhibit A is most definitely one of those found footage movies. Found Footage in the most traditional sense. Exhibit A is presented as a collection of evidence of a crime committed by a person. The movie plays out as though we are watching this evidence directly with minimal editing.
Found Footage, as a horror genre, is much maligned. Just like Noroi: The Curse, which we reviewed a few days ago, Exhibit A takes the best parts of the genre and throws away the bad stuff. Fantastic acting, a compelling plot, and some genuinely horrifying moments add up to one of the absolute best found footage horror movies ever made.
Gritty and Realistic
There is a DIY feeling to Exhibit A. The footage is grainy and rough, lighting is variable and often extremely poor. There is no real editing, and the scenes are spliced together in a somewhat nonsensical way. All of this adds to the realism of the production and makes everything all the more believable. Improvisation keeps the dialogue flowing in a manner that suggests a genuine family bond. The actors were also the camera operators so expect some usual found footage shakiness.
The authenticity that comes along with found footage is particularly effective when it comes to crime related stories. The handheld camera adds a level of realism to everything for better or for worse. If a movie is well acted and has a believable, feasible plot, found footage will add to that. If a movie features terrible acting and farcical, unrealistic situations, found footage will shine a light on that. It is easy to ham things up and make the movie seem like a bad university drama project. When done right, however, you can be taken right into the shoes of the characters involved.
Genuinely Disturbing and Severely Underrated
Exhibit A is, in my opinion, severely underrated. You just don’t hear much about it and I am sure that has a lot to do with its presentation. It’s a low budget movie from the North of England featuring minimal scares and a depressing suburban horror plot. It is, however, one of the most disturbing movies I have ever watched. Exhibit A taps into a type of horror that is so close to reality. The events of Exhibit A play out in real life all the time. You read about it in the newspaper and on true crime sites multiple times a year. Chris Watts and similar cases immediately come to mind.
The decline of Andy is so well played out that you actually feel uncomfortable watching him change. He turns from a slightly bumbling, comedy loving, albeit cheesy family man to a broken shell of himself in such a convincing fashion. You could almost believe you are watching an actual compilation of evidence. Everything is incredibly believable. Andy’s reasoning for his actions and blind belief that he is doing the best by his family keep events spiralling uncontrollably.
I would genuinely warn people who have had difficult childhoods around angry people to approach this movie with caution. Andy’s breakdown is so well done that I imagine it could potentially trigger bad memories for anyone who has been a victim of a violent parent or family member. Whether this plays into how much this movie impacts you, or not, I don’t know. I had a difficult childhood and can relate to much of what happens in Exhibit A. I am sure many other people will feel this way as well.
Exhibit A is, apparently, fully improvised which makes the fantastic acting all the more impressive. There isn’t a weak performance in the entire movie but special mention has to go out to Brittany Ashworth as Judith and Bradley Cole as Andy.
We, for the most part, see the world through Judith’s eyes (well, camera) and Brittany Ashworth does an incredible job. It’s a tall task but she adds a sense of humanity and fragility to the movie. Whether the cast were given pointers or not I don’t know. Some of the scenes between her and Andy, whether fully improvised or not, are incredibly powerful. Judith maintains a view that her Dad is doing everything for the greater good of the family. She attempts to reason with him and appeal to his logic as someone who loves him. Brittany always does a brilliant job in these scenes and displays a wide range of emotion.
Bradley Cole, as Andy, is the real star of the show, however. His performance is incredible, both funny at times and menacing at others. He does such a fantastic job of illustrating the breakdown of a person over the span of a few weeks. He puts together a powerful portrayal of a person suffering from vulnerable narcissism. The subtle way Andy attempts to control everything while deflecting blame wherever possible. It is an amazing performance that is never once anything other than utterly believable.
Kind of Hard to Recommend
Exhibit A is, despite being a fantastic movie, quite hard to recommend. It is so well acted, so realistic, and centred around such a disturbing topic, that it goes beyond horror. It is, to be honest, barely a horror and more a recreation of actual events that happen to families all over the world all the time. These are truly terrifying events and can happen anywhere and to anyone. There is actually no real entertainment value here and it leaves you feeling somewhat drained.
I have seen some reviews from people who hated this movie. Some people claimed the acting was bad or it wasn’t scary or it focused too heavily on family drama. That’s fair enough, you are entitled to your opinion. I totally disagree on most of those points and imagine those are reviews from fans of The Conjuring and the like. Some people will likely be angry that they just watched something that was less a horror and more just horrific. I get that! If, however, you appreciate the movie for what it is then it will likely stay with you and leave you feeling utterly shit for half an hour or so afterwards.
The last 20 minutes of Exhibit A are a genuinely tough watch. The acting is so good that it just makes it all the more difficult to watch. The last 5 minutes, shot in one take, are harrowing. Incredible acting from Brittany Ashworth and Bradley Cole place you in the unenviable position of being an observer to something awful. It is both brilliant, and almost impossible to recommend watching.. Just like Exhibit A itself.
Is it a Knockout?
Exhibit A is a movie that is as brilliant as it is depressing. Horribly grim in its portrayal of the mental collapse of a family patriarch, Exhibit A pulls no punches.
Fantastic acting and stand out performances from Brittany Ashworth and Bradley Cole keep you engaged throughout all the way to the movie's disturbing climax. Likely to stay with you for some time after watching, Exhibit A is almost difficult to recommend due to its unrelenting commitment to authenticity. There is no joy to be had here and the movie's portrayal of something that happens all too often is brutal and affecting.
Exhibit A, however, may not be for everyone. There is a lot of shaky cam footage due to the actors acting as camera operators. US viewers might be a bit put off by the Englishness of it and some of the references may seem random. It's also worth keeping in mind that the movie is less a horror and more a horrific recreation of an awful crime. Traditional horror fans may not find much to like here. If, however, you are looking for incredible acting and a disturbing story then look no further.