January review: isolated men experience strange things…

Samuel Finzi, Iossif Surchadzhiev and Leonid Yovchev in January (directed by Andrey Paounov).
Share this Article:

Two men attempt to make sense of some mysterious happenings in an isolated location, paranoia ensues – here’s our review of January.

Set in post-communist Bulgaria, director and co-writer (alongside Alex Barrett) Andrey Paounov’s January is an intriguing mystery-thriller that really makes the most of being shot in atmospheric black and white. 

Isolated in a run-down complex in the middle of nowhere during the winter snows, The Porter (Samuel Finzi) spends his days using what might be the most high-tech nutcracker I’ve ever seen and solving crosswords with The Old Man (Iossif Surchadzhiev). Their only other companions are a dog and a crow that oddly likes to drink rakia – a strong fruit brandy. The duo’s everyday existence may sound strange enough, but soon various people come to their home looking for their boss – who’s travelled through the woods to the nearby city – and a series of strange encounters ensues. 

As more characters assemble in the small location, which January rarely strays from, the film becomes tense and fraught with paranoia. The group investigate the strange goings on and share tales of supernatural creatures that lurk in the supposedly dangerous woods nearby. These stories are written as monologues, and regardless of who is delivering it it’s done flawlessly. Each cast member is able to relate terrifying tales and existential questioning with an unwavering intensity that keeps you completely engaged. 

It seems like a strange choice at first to limit the location to mainly a cabin. Most other thrillers would eventually delve into the dark woods its characters are so afraid of. That’s why it’s an excellent choice on Paounov’s part – you could say that January is almost tinged with a bit of cosmic horror because of the way it creates such a fear of the unknown. It capitalises on what it doesn’t show, and relies on the paranoia and speculation of the characters to make us feel afraid of what might be out there. 

January’s lighting and cinematography also helps to create a tense atmosphere. You can see definite Gothic influences in the incredibly deep shadows, contrasted with the pure white of the snow outside. It also makes excellent use of reflections in water, as well as flickering lights, to create suspense and a feeling of dread that permeates the whole narrative. 

With an ending heavily (and I do mean heavily) inspired by The Shining, January only adds to its mystery in the film’s final moments – though it also maintains its powerful atmosphere and intense performances until the very end.

As for what was actually going on – well, who knows? But I enjoyed it very much.

January is released in cinemas and on demand on 27th January.

Thank you for visiting! If you’d like to support our attempts to make a non-clickbaity movie website:

Follow Film Stories on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.

Buy our Film Stories and Film Stories Junior print magazines here.

Become a Patron here.

Share this Article:

More like this