Edinburgh International Film Festival

Firstborn (2016)

Starring: Antonia Thomas, Luke Norris, Jonathan Hyde, Eileen Davies

Directed by: Nirpal Bhogal

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

It's nearly midnight at Edinburgh Film Festival HQ and time for some homegrown horror. Budget Brit movie FirstBorn promises to follow in the footsteps of The Exorcist et al in bringing us a 'scary demon child' scenario – but set in a two-bedroom flat in north London. Interesting...

Antonia Thomas in Firstborn

Charlie (Antonia Thomas from Sunshine on Leith) and James (Luke Norris) are barely more than kids themselves when they discover they're going to have a baby. But theirs will be no ordinary child, as a series of chilling and inexplicable incidents (incidents that make great use of just off kilter, unsettling little details) quickly confirms. Because their daughter Thea is a magnet for the supernatural. Uhuh. As Thea grows up and no piece of crockery is safe in their poltergeist-ridden home, it seems only one person can help the desperate couple, creepy psychic spinster Elizabeth (Eileen Davies). But at what cost?  

So far so Rosemary's Baby meets Hollyoaks, with a dash of Dennis Wheatley thrown in for good measure. Yet this good ol' fashioned Hammer-esque tale of demonic possession, can also, in the vein of The Babadook, be seen as a supernatural allegory for the heartbreak of raising a disabled child, forever fettered by rules and rituals that don't apply to 'normal' kids. Contrary to what the likes of Poltergeist would have us believe, a mother's love can only stretch so far before reaching breaking point. It's perhaps no coincidence that Elizabeth, abandoned by her own mother and the only person who can understand what Thea is experiencing, walks with the aid of a crutch.

Taut, absorbing and genuinely creepy in places, FirstBorn is a bold and largely successful attempt to rework a now-hackneyed trope (Devil's Due anyone? Ffs.). Hooray for homegrown horror!

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