In debt to a drug dealer, and recently sacked, Darren (Buck Braithwaite) seizes opportunity when flatmate Jo (Abbey Gillett) discovers that her wealthy employer’s security system goes on the fritz. Teaming up with his girlfriend, Lou (Nadia Lamin), and Mas (Omari Lake-Pottinger), the four friends set out for what should be a simple burglary. But the quartet soon find themselves in over their heads, as their needs quickly progress from theft, to self-preservation, and ultimately survival.

a familiar sinister tone, complete with another villainous performance from Toby Wynn-Davies

Richard Rowntree (Dogged) brings us his second, and most violent feature film yet. Nefarious features elaborately gory set pieces showcasing truly remarkable makeup effects talent. He also utilizes a familiar sinister tone, complete with another villainous performance from Toby Wynn-Davies (Escape From Cannibal Farm) as the ‘victim’ Marcus. The final act culminates with the discovery of a disturbing torture room featuring preserved body parts, and leads to a number of vicious and visceral kills that, frankly, shouldn’t be possible given the budget Rowntree had to work with.

Beyond the effects, however, Nefarious features stellar performances all around from the relatively unknown cast. Lamin, in particular, seems poised for a breakout with several films on the horizon. Gregory A. Smith also returns from Dogged with an extremely impressive performance as Marcus’s mentally challenged brother. Perhaps most impressive of all, however, was Rowntree’s discovery of Buck Braithwaite. In his first acting role of any kind, Braithwaite sizzles as the leading man with a gritty, realistic portrayal of a working class bad-boy.

vicious and visceral kills

Nefarious also carries a distinct visual style that Rowntree, cinematographer Christopher Foulser, and editor Lee Wingall continue to refine. Granted, some may find the kinetic editing and overexposed photography somewhat off-putting. In addition, some of the daytime interior lighting leaves much to be desired. However, the skillful editing and colorfully lit scenes are enough, particularly when combined with exquisite sound design, to create an overall solid presentation.

But it wouldn’t be a Rowntree movie without an ending that turns the film’s events on their head. As with Dogged, a final perspective shift changes the focus and re-contextualizes the previous hour or so of run-time. This type of storytelling elevates Nefarious from what might otherwise just be a forgettable, by-the-numbers home invasion flick. Instead, it lends itself to countless re-watches in the search for clues.

Nefarious made its world premiere at the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival on August 23, 2019.