If you’re looking for something spooky to watch this Friday the 13th, look no further than Matt Richard’s The Disappearance of Willie Bingham. In what feels like the retelling of a classic ghost story, this is one of those films that leaves an unsettling feeling at the pit of your stomach and a lingering sense that in some alternative universe, Willie’s fate could be your’s.
In a horror meets political satire, The Disappearance of Willie Bingham is set in a not-so-distant Australian future in which convicted murders undergo a new form of punishment in place of the death penalty – amputations of body parts as decided by the deceased victim’s family members. In a revamping of the eye-for-an-eye biblical scripture, Willie is paraded in order to set a prophetic example. In his own way of coping with the political climate of his native country Australia, Matt Richards’ film is both mysteriously fantastical and darkly comedic, yet deeply rooted in reality.
The film is all together creepy and reminiscent of the now infamous children’s book Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwatz. Not only is the film narrated – quite literally a verbal retelling much like the folklore that inspired such haunted tales – it is told through the perspective of the man assigned to supervise Willie’s health during his aforementioned “treatments”. And just like those folktales that impart a deeper meaning or lesson, Richards bestows a rather scary political message of his own: While the film’s premise may seem fantastically absurdist, the kind of control that the state has over its people is a fast approaching reality for better or worse.
Inspired and based on the original short story The Wilbur Bledsoe Amputations by Michael Fawcett, Richards’ twisted tale critiques what he thinks to be the gradual undoing of many civil liberties in the guise of safety and protection. To Richards, the short story spoke directly to what might happen in the very near future if people were to abandon compassion and follow a black and white sense of right and wrong.
So while you watch Richards gripping horror film and get wrapped up in an almost Black Mirror style mind-f**k, keep in mind that while Willie’s punishment is disturbing in and of itself, so too is what it could mean for you. After all, every good scary story has just the right amount of reality to remind you that you’re next.
Richards is currently working on a thriller feature film script in the psychological horror genre set to shoot next year and also developing a web series.