Monday, September 5, 2016

The Future Is a Thirsty Place

Look, if your film is set in a post-apocalyptic future, I'm going to watch it.

'Nuff said.

Quick Plot: A few years from now but years since the last rain (yes, I'm confused too) the world has fallen into a The Road-like existence of hunger, thirst, and violence. Holding up strong on an abandoned Oregon farm are Kendall and Dean, a pair of teenage orphans who have watched the world crumble around them.

The smart and resourceful Kendall spends most of her days scavenging old vehicles for a part to help fix a plane that her and Dean have declared their ticket to a better life. Ill from kidney failure, Dean is confined to the indoors while Kendall reports back with less and less hope. Meanwhile, a man named Carson has found a way to tap into the remaining well water supply in the general area, offering his band of rovers as a sanctuary for those who have given up.

Well, the healthy ones who have given up.

The Last Survivors does very little new with its post-apocalyptic setup, but thankfully, it also does almost everything quite well. Directed and co-written by Thomas S. Hammock, the film looks astonishingly perfect. I wasn't surprised to learn that Hammock was the production designer on All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, You're Next, and The Guest (especially when the always welcome Barbara Crampton stops by). While we're not on Fury Road or even Gallowwalkers levels of Namibian desert glory, The Last Survivors is beautifully shot and goes a long way in establishing its dried out rural setting. Even the costume choices show a keen eye, as Kendall's torn clothing often blends right into the landscape.

The other biggest strength in Hammock's hand is lead actress Haley Lu Richardson and her (and the film's) take on Kendall. Wisely, The Last Survivors is more show than tell, and we don't need flashbacks or loaded exposition to understand exactly who this young woman is and how she came to survive where so many others haven't. She's also, refreshingly, a heroic but not saintly person. Kendall and Dean are good people in a world where such a trait is a weakness, but the film doesn't feel the need to hammer down their niceness on us. We get a few examples of how their actions define them while also clearly showing that these are people who will let their conscience go for self-preservation.

There's something that holds The Last Survivors back from being on the same level as, say, Carriers or Stake Land. It's not quite as ambitious, but that's also to the film's credit. Hammock doesn't take on more than his resource permitted, and as a debut film, it's quite strong.

Also, it might make you a tad thirsty.

High Points
Aforementioned cinematography and location choice, as well as its strong, believable female protagonist

Low Points
Aforementioned minimalism

Look! It's -Aside from the lovely genre goddess Crampton, we also get a small turn from Rena Owen, an incredibly gifted New Zealand actress best known for Once Were Warriors (and lesser known, though still affectionately by me, for Alyce Kills)

Lessons Learned
Many things will be extinct should the earth experience a devastating drought in the future, but none more missed than hair ties

Though the majority of personal hygiene will be less valued with the impending apocalypse, eyebrow maintenance will always be key

Respect the carpenter

Always keep a katana in easy reach. You just never know when you'll be decapitating nouveau Tusken raiders

The Last Survivors is streaming on U.S. Netflix Instant, and it's certainly worth 90 minutes of your time, particularly if you appreciate watching quality films made on smaller budgets. Or, you know, if you dig end of the world stuff like a normal human being.

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