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[FrightFest Glasgow 2024] FILM REVEW: Custom

Custom - FrightFest Glasgow 2024 World Premiere Review

Director: Tiago Teixeira

Starring: Abigail Hardingham, Rowan Polonski, Brad Moore, Samantha Steel

Written by: Tiago Teixeira

Produced by: Andy Edwards

Cinematography by: Philipp Morozov

Original Score by: Ted Rigklis


A couple producing custom erotic films are dragged into a nightmarish conspiracy when they start working for a mysterious client.

Custom Film Poster


Tiago Teixeira's hypnotising debut feature film is an intense, erotically charged dark thriller that feels like a personal homage to David Cronenberg.

Harriet (Hardingham) and Jasper (Polonski) are an artistically minded couple who are struggling to make ends meet so they decide to film and distribute their sexual exploits in order to make some much needed cash to pay their rent. Being a freelance videographer and photographer can't compare to the kind of money they can make selling their sex tapes, particularly when they openly welcome requests.

After a brief introduction to the couple we are then treated to a rather short, somewhat disorientating sequence showing a wounded Jasper, in what looks like a large, abandoned office space, coming to and clearly being very confused about where he is. And then we get a fairly fiery sex scene where Harriet kisses Jasper's chest wound. Ok this is gonna be interesting.

Abigail Hardingham as Harriet in Custom

Some time passes and we realise that Harriet and Jasper aren't quite that same sanguine couple from the opening scene asking their viewers to "be gentle" with them. In fact there's an insinuation that maybe they aren't even a proper couple anymore. There's definitely a modicum of mundane professionalism about what they do now, suggesting that their relationship perhaps is a bit strained and their intimacy has been diluted to simply being a business transaction. Less fun and more work. They've clearly upgraded their equipment and their clientele is growing.

Then things begin to get even weirder when a mysterious new client they call 'The Audience' referred to them by a friend, asks them to partake in a bizarre ritual that seems relatively innocent to begin with but has some life changing consequences. He is paying an insane amount of money so why not eh? We get the sense early on that something obviously isn't right, especially concerning Jasper, who often questions their decision to take part in these assignments and who occasionally drifts in an out of reality. What even is reality?

Teixeira has the astute ability to build and maintain a level of atmosphere that is profoundly ominous, demanding the viewers attention throughout, ironically making a film that is not too dissimilar to the videos featured within. As the film progresses and Jasper and Harriet fall deeper down the rabbit hole of forbiddance, Teixeira is able to stretch out the mystery surrounding 'The Audience', what these tape recordings actually mean and what the repercussions will be for the couple if they watch them, which they have been ordered not to do.

"What's the problem with the usual boring clients?" - Bea
"They're usual and boring". - Bishop

There's definitely a level of Lynchian magic going on here from a structure stand point but as alluded too earlier in this review, the visuals and premise is more closely linked to David Cronenberg's work, particularly 'Videodrome' (1983) and 'Crash' (1996). There's a supernatural element lingering on the periphery but thematically the film explores similar behavioural motifs regarding repressed sexual desires. There's not enough traditional horror in the film to compare it to the works of Clive Barker but I would hazard a guess that he might also be a valid influence.

Rowan Polonski as Jasper in Custom

I wasn't a big fan of how they portrayed 'The Audience'. He felt very much like the masked magician in one of those 'Secrets Revealed' type documentaries. It just felt a bit corny to me and even some of the dialogue between him and Jasper was a tad too expositional. However, the flaws are obscured by the beautiful cinematography by Philip Morozov and the layered, nightmarish, omnipresent score by Ted Rigklis. Both of which add a certain surrealism to the final picture and Morozov's use of soft lighting and close-ups give the film a very European art film look.

Helped by two impressively committed performances from Hardingham and Polonski and Tiago Teixeira's uniquely pervasive vision, 'Custom' is a refreshingly intriguing and unsettling exploration into human carnality.

Verdict: ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

-Gavin Logan

'Custom' received its World Premiere at FrightFest Glasgow on March 9th

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