Johnny Kevorkian has died. The British filmmaker behind two interesting indie horror films with strong cult followings—2008's The Disappeared, and 2018's Await Further Instructions—Kevorkian died this week of what’s been reported as a possible heart attack. According to Dread Central, he was 48.
After working for several years in short film, Kevorkian first grabbed the attention of the indie horror world with The Disappeared, which starred Harry Treadaway—still years off from making a name for himself with Penny Dreadful and Mr. Mercedes—as a former mental hospital resident looking into the death of his younger brother in a small British town. The film pulled in mixed reviews, but drew strong praise for Treadaway’s performance, and the creeping tension of its ghost-heavy drama.
10 years later (a period that saw him attempt to get at least one other major project, The Sleep Thief, unsuccessfully off the ground) Kevorkian returned to filmmaking with the unsettling and very of-its-time Await Further Instructions, which drew heavy festival attention for its depiction of a family imploding after its older and more conservative members start becoming brainwashed by malevolent signals from their TV. (Also, there’s a whole bunch of body horror, murder, and mayhem, but the basic metaphor’s not hard to track—although the film’s script actually predates the Trump era by several years.) Among other places, Await Further Instructions was an eye catcher at the 2018 Cinepocalypse film festival, where we wrote about both its heavy dose of Twilight Zone energy, and its bonkers gut-punch of an ending.
Kevorkian stayed consistently on the outer edges of the industry throughout his career, mining distinctive pockets of unease out of those corners of the world where the budgets stay low, the effects stay practical, and some of the stranger ideas can creep through. Jack Tarling, who hand-picked Kevorkian to tackle Await Further Instructions after seeing The Disappeared, eulogized him thusly: “Johnny was a tenacious and much-loved filmmaker whose dark screen visions brought joy and thrills to many, and whose humble and affable presence in real life did just the same. He was well known within the UK film industry and will be sorely missed by all. I’m grateful to have worked with him.”