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’Control’ review: Dir. James Mark  [FrightFest]

Arrow Video FrightFest always has a plethora of returning filmmakers. Much like the passholders that attend each year, once you’re in, you’re in for life. Director James Mark is just one of the returning talents as he screens new film Control. 


Created using real-time virtual production tools, Control places one woman in a twisted and Hellish science experiment. Eileen (Sarah Mitich) awakens and sits upon a seat in a sterile room. A computerised voice commands her to do a range of simple tasks such as moving a pencil on the table. Eileen’s assessors don’t want her to use her hands or feet though, but rather her mind. If she does not comply with the demands, the life of her daughter, Eve (Evie Loiselle), will be taken. As Eileen starts to tap into her innate natural talents for telekinesis, she’s joined by her former partner Roger (George Tchortov) and the tests kick up a gear. 

Visually, Control looks the part. The setting looks like a standard sci-fi movie experiment location. Eileen’s cell is a mixture of sterile greys and whites. The room is linked up to lights that alternate from dazzlingly bright to dangerous red or chilling blue, depending on Eileen’s progress with her current task. With little more than a table and chair, the room has that clean uncluttered appearance that many science-fiction films rely upon. Working against the sci-fi aesthetic are Eileen’s memories of Eve. These are set on a sun-bleached sandy beach and punctuate the completion of each task. Their inclusion offers some visual texture and differentiation from what could otherwise become a very bland setting. 

With the narrative, Mark and co-writer Matthew Nayman seek to explore the human ability to change oneself. Eileen is thrown into a journey of self-discovery, realising that she is capable of great things. It also looks at a failed relationship and how the trauma of that can inform future decisions. The crux investigates the maternal bond and the lengths that mothers will go to to keep their children safe. The memory / dream sequences involving Eve and Eileen are the heart of the story and one can’t help but be sucked into Eileen’s determination to rescue her child no matter the odds.

Much more stripped back and focused than Mark’s previous work, Enhanced, Control does still suffer from its fair share of problems. Just like the experiments that Eileen is being made to do over and over, there’s a lot of repetition to the narrative structure. This helps reinforce the frustration of Eileen’s work, but also causes the viewer to switch off slightly. Eileen is somewhat of an infuriating character. She spends a good portion of the first act screaming for the voice to tell her “what it wants”. But it already has – it has made a request for the pencil to be moved. Eileen is of course likely asking in the sense of the bigger picture, but with her shouts coming moments after the instructions, it doesn’t come across the same. 

The logic of some of the experiments themselves and Eileen’s interactions with them also struggle to make sense in some instances. In one she is presented with moving a ball into a bin. Claiming that’s too difficult she instead goes about trying to undo the screws rooting her chair to the floor. This seems to be the more taxing of the jobs and makes for an odd choice. The real downfall of Control however, is that it’s glaringly obvious where it’s headed. Whereas in some films knowing the end can add a sense of fun, in this case it just makes the film drag, the viewer desperate to get to the end reveal. 

Although primarily a chamber-piece, Control does eventually leave the white room and the action steps up. There’s a wonderful fight where Eileen takes on swarms of security using only the power of her mind. This sequence is action packed, bone-crackingly grim, and a joy to watch unfold. After all of the quiet reflection, desperation and conversations, just like Eileen, Control finally cuts loose in this scene, its inclusion helping to smooth over some of its shortcomings. It can’t quite elevate the film to greatness, but does make it slightly more enjoyable. A massive leap from Enhanced, Mark’s progression is enough to maintain intrigue in his future ventures. Control itself is a competently made sci-fi story that, despite treading familiar paths, still has enough deviation to entertain an audience.


Kat Hughes



A slow and steady walk through sci-fi conventions, Control’s slightly pedestrian narrative hampers it slightly. The inclusion of a stellar action sequence and a couple of deviations though helps it remain an entertaining viewing experience


Control was reviewed at Arrow Video FrightFest 2022. Signature Entertainment presents Control on Digital Platforms 26th September.

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


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