REVIEW: Accused (2023, dir. Philip Barantini)

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 88 mins

UK Distributor: Netflix

UK Release Date: 22 September 2023

WHO’S IN ACCUSED?

Chaneil Kular, Lauryn Ajufo, Nitin Ganatra, Nila Aalia, Frances Tomelty, Jay Johnson, Robbie O’Neill, Ollie Teague

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Philip Barantini (director), Barnaby Boulton and James Cummings (writers), Samantha Beddoe, Edward Caffrey, Rupert Preston and Sara Sehdev (producers), Aaron May and David Ridley (composers), Matthew Lewis (cinematographer), Alex Fountain (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

After being wrongfully accused of a terrorist attack, a young man (Kular) must deal with the backlash…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON ACCUSED?

The home invasion thriller is one of those horror sub-genres, much like the slasher and exorcism films, that you have to make sure you at the very least pull off well, otherwise it’s just a bunch of the same stuff you’ve seen before, done in pretty much the same fashion as all those other times.

Accused, from director Philip Barantini and screenwriters Barnaby Boulton and James Cummings, doesn’t run into this problem. While it certainly is following the traditional home invasion structure, it executes them in ways that really do make you feel constantly on edge, as well as providing some thoughtful commentary that make the situation all the more terrifying.

We follow Harri (Chaneil Kular), a young man living in central London who, during a train journey up to Yorkshire where he intends to dog-sit for his parents Ramesh (Nitin Ganatra) and Isha (Nila Aalia), learns that a terrorist attack at the station he departed from has left a number of people dead. Soon after CCTV images begin to circulate online, social media activists mistakenly identify Harri as the terrorist, causing a wave of angry, hateful messages directed at him, leaving him and his girlfriend Chloe (Lauryn Ajufo), who was due to come up and keep Harri company, utterly unnerved. As if that wasn’t enough, his parents’ address is leaked, leading two masked vigilantes (Robbie O’Neill and Jay Johnson) to come and exact justice on who they believe to be the man responsible for the attack, forcing Harri to survive the perilous night.

At its core, Accused certainly is a straightforward home invasion movie, but Barantini, who previously impressed with his one-shot kitchen drama Boiling Point, knows how to pile tension upon tension with effective set pieces that leave you just as stressed and breathless as its unfortunate lead. The filmmaker, along with cinematographer Matthew Lewis (who also worked on Boiling Point), takes advantage of the dark and isolated environment of this secluded house to create an atmosphere where you’re always nervous about what could be around the corner, on the other side of any door, or hiding somewhere in the shadows. Barantini wisely doesn’t resort to cheap tricks like false jump-scares or unnecessarily inconvenient barriers such as car engines not starting at the worst possible moment, instead relying on pure mood and natural dread to carry these nail-biting scenes. It’s legitimately unnerving stuff, because as soon as the threat begins to grow and grow until it eventually gets out of control, the filmmaking rarely ever gives the viewer a moment to truly feel at ease, and it is consistent and well-paced enough to maintain that level of suspension throughout.

The film’s biggest source of genuine terror comes from the themes within Boulton and Cummings’ script, which tackles the very real consequences of spreading and believing online misinformation, especially that which carries a much more hateful agenda. Mere seconds after Harri is mistakenly identified as a suspect, the social media timeline is littered with racist and xenophobic comments calling for his execution, even though there is not a shred of further evidence to indicate that he is even the official person of interest. The script, on top of Barantini’s tense direction, effectively captures the pressurised feeling of being dogpiled with baseless accusations without being given a chance to express their own innocence, while lead actor Chaneil Kular – who has a charming screen presence as well as an unnatural knack for looking exceptionally stressed at all times – excellently conveys the real-time terror of being targeted by people who don’t even know him. It is all so disturbingly plausible that there would be such immediate hatred toward someone who hasn’t yet been proven innocent or guilty, and in an era where most of us get our regular news feed from Twitter instead of actual journalistic sources, it is a far too necessary reminder of never to entirely believe what you read about online.

Its thought-provoking script and some incredibly taut filmmaking make Accused a solid home invasion thriller with a socially conscious twist, one that successfully puts the viewer inside of an eternally stressful situation that becomes increasingly hard to escape from. Even when the film does incorporate some of the more familiar aspects of the formula, you’re still shaken to your core by not just how unbelievably tense the scenario is, but also by how you can easily imagine something like this happening in our current reality, one where online hatred and prejudice is so apparent that it’s hard to fully escape its nasty grasp.

It’s one of the finer examples of the home invasion movie in quite a while, and an impressive feat for Barantini who, as he prepares to dive back into the kitchen with an upcoming BBC miniseries follow-up to Boiling Point, proves himself to be a growing master of the pressure-cooker thriller.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Accused is a solid home invasion thriller that executes many of the familiar conventions extremely well thanks to director Philip Barantini’s heavily tense filmmaking, while the thoughtful script plays into relevant discussions surrounding online misinformation, especially those with hateful and dangerous agendas.

Click here to watch Accused on Netflix!

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