There’re countless moments throughout Tiago Teixeira’s feature debut Custom that play like Barker, Nakata or early Cronenberg (David or Brandon, take your pick). Haunting, sexy, deeply disturbing stuff. Icky, sticky seediness, grained-up and stamped onto videotape, like The Ring made for OnlyFans. Deeply dour, but in a good way.

A micro-budget stab at tackling the nefarious underbelly of online sex work, Custom is – much like Teixeira’s shorts (FrightFest alums Dog Skin and Molar in particular) – a mood piece; more interested and involved with its world and themes than its characters. Although it must be said that leads Abigail Hardingham (Nina Forever) and Rowan Polonski (Kingsman) get thoroughly stuck in as artsy couple Harriet and Jasper; amateur pornographers who find themselves tangled up in a bizarre, VHS-themed nightmare, courtesy of their newest client.


But that’s just about all the plot we get. Teixeira instead using much of the mystery as more of a jumping-off point for exploring a whole lot of cosmic creepiness. And creepiness that although a little hollow in impact, is gorgeously built by the director and his team, it must be said. Particularly cinematographer Philip Morozov’s visuals, which go quite some distance with very little resource; painted with a baked-in murk all the way through, and extra attention paid to the seriously grubby sequences on videotape.

There’s definitely something missing, though. Ironically for a film about amateur porn, Custom’s awfully stiff; desperate for some sort of relatable humanity to keep us tied into the nightmares. Hardingham is a standout, and brings enough personality to Harri to make her spiky and likeable, but as the back-half of the film descends more into conspiracy thriller territory, we lose her and a lot of the drama almost completely. And without her, any real interest in the plot goes too.


Custom’s final act instead becomes more of an exercise in feeling our way through the doldrums of Teixeira’s world. Recycling beats to scrape up whatever’s left of the dreamy nastiness, before cutting to black on much more of a shrug than a question mark. There are so many massive ideas on the table here, but it’s an ending that feels unfinished more than anything; a crying shame considering the arsenal this team are playing with for much of the first half.

As far as micro budget first features go though, this is a fascinating curio; a rare, ambitious attempt at capturing the same sort of uniquely viscous smuttiness rarely seen since the heyday of Hellraiser. And while it doesn’t exactly come full circle, or deliver anything particularly punchy in its final act, Custom still remains an exciting piece of mood cinema, from a very provocative new voice.

Custom was screened as part of FrightFest Glasgow 2024.


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custom-reviewThin in plot (and overall impact), but caked in plenty of gorgeously grim and grisly visuals. An exciting piece of mood cinema, from a very provocative new voice.