They Probably Won't Be "The Last Survivors" Review

Imagine a world where it hasn’t rained in a decade. The once lush, green lands of the Oregon valley now resemble a wasteland, empty and parched. Formerly the site of an orphanage, all that is left are some scattered ruins of farms that remain the last refuges of a few desperate, dying people. Among them are seventeen-year-old Kendal (Haley Lu Richardson) and her boyfriend, Dean (Booboo Stewart), who is so weak from kidney failure that he can barely get out of bed, let alone leave the valley. Fortunately, Kendal knows where an old Cessna is hidden, and spends her days hunting for the missing part she needs to get it up and running when she’s not busy keeping an eye out for a young child, Alby (Max Charles), or giving Dean her share of the last droplets of water that remain in their nearly dried-up well. However, a greedy and heartless water baron, Carson (Napoleon Dynamite’s Uncle Rico, Jon Gries), is making the rounds of the farms and killing any remaining people who might be drinking his water; the longer Kendal, Dean and Alby remain in the valley, the more likely they are to die.

The primary weakness of The Last Survivors is the script, co-written by director Tom Hammock and Jacob Forman; the plot of is loosely sketched at best, and the majority of the dialogue is stiff and awkward. There are numerous instances in which I was disappointed to not be provided with a little more background on the characters and how they ended up in the situation they were in. For instance, I would love to know where Kendal learned how to pilot a plane, not to mention how to fight with a sword--something she does with great ferocity in the film’s third act. Both of these are useful skills in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, to be sure, but not ones that the average teenage girl just happens to have in her repertoire. Clearly Kendal is not your average orphan, but why? Who taught her how to do these things, and if no one, when and how was she able to teach herself? These and other questions about Kendal and her fellow survivors plagued me throughout the film. Fresh-faced ingenue Richardson seems to be a capable actor; it’s a shame that the film does not give her more to work with. It’s hard to be invested in our heroine, and her survival, when she is more of a Mary Sue than a Katniss Everdeen.

Where The Last Survivors does excel is in its creation of a dying world, one where the blue cloudless skies and the scorching sun signify not another beautiful day, but another deadly one where no rain will fall, moving the film’s scattered bands of stragglers closer to extinction. The film’s opening scenes are light on dialogue (a good thing) and move slowly and sluggishly, much like a dehydrated person on a hot day. While this might not initially seem like a positive, it helps create a quietly haunting atmosphere that, to compare it to another take on the no-water apocalypse, is the delicate string sonata to Mad Max: Fury Road’s heavy-metal bombast. Thanks to its compelling imagery and atmosphere, The Last Survivor could have been an excellent short film. However, as a feature, there’s not enough to quench an audience’s thirst.

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

The Blu-ray release of The Last Survivors includes two separate commentary tracks, deleted scenes, behind the scenes footage, Richardson’s audition and offer, a slide show and the film’s trailer.

"The Last Survivors" is on sale August 4, 2015 and is not rated. Thriller. Directed by Tom Hammock. Written by Jacob Forman, Tom Hammock. Starring Booboo Stewart, Haley Lu Richardson, Jon Gries.

Sep
09
2015
Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

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