Unsparing in its cynicism and unflinching in its tension, director Lawrence Gough’s psychological thriller Gatecrash (U.K., 2020) is a chilling, gripping effort. The film offers loads of true surprises along with its shocks and edge-of-the-seat suspense.

Steve (Ben Cura) and his partner Nicole (Olivia Bonamy) arrive at their luxurious home at odds because the violent, manipulative, and quite angry Steve was behind the wheel of a hit and run on the couple’s way home from a party. In one uncomfortable scene after another, he shows his force both mentally and physically over Nicole, insisting that she was responsible for the accident. Nicole’s not sure it was really an accident, however. With blood and hair on the car, now parked in the garage, a policeman (Samuel West) comes calling, ostensibly about a prowler in the neighborhood, but his arrogant, condescending, intimidating demeanor hints to Nicole that something is off as Steve hides in the house.

Several things come to violent light when the story suddenly jumps one year ahead. Steve and Nicole are now the parents of a baby, and the man (Anton Lesser) whom the couple hit comes calling unexpectedly — to thank them.

Little is as it first appears in Gatecrash, adapted from Terry Hughes’ original stage play of the same name by Hughes, Gough, and Alan Pattison. The trio has fashioned a film that keeps viewers guessing, rich with discomfiting scenes, engrossing characters, and riveting dialogue. The drama is highly confrontational, even when things are bubbling just under the surface, and the suspense is of the highest level. Gough’s direction is top-notch, with Mark Nutkins’ cinematography placing viewers uncomfortably close to various confrontations, and Gough’s and Stephen Haren’s editing helping to superbly pace the stressful proceedings. The story is presented in two halves, much like a stage play, and at times the blocking and staging does recall the presentation of a play, but the film never feels stagey to the point of distraction.

The cast is terrific, with Bonamy’s enthralling performance as the maltreated Nicole anchoring the proceedings. Her character is the audience surrogate, and Bonamy’s turn causes viewers to feel like they are going through the wringer along with Nicole. Viewers are meant to hate Steve from the opening scene, and Cura plays the entitled, brutish character marvelously. West is a treat as the menacing policeman, and Lesser a disturbing delight in a subtly nuanced performance.

Those seeking unpredictable fare in a dark thriller would be wise to seek out Gatecrash. It’s an exciting, unsettling film that leaves viewers with plenty to think about.

Gatecrash, from Bird Box Distribution, is now available in the U.K. on all major Digital Download platforms.