At the edge of an expansive barren valley, all that remains of The Wallace Farm for Wayward Youth is a few hollowed-out husks of buildings. Seventeen-year-old Kendal (Haley Lu Richardson) can barely recall when the Oregon valley was still lush. Itís been a decade since the last rainfall, and society at large has dried up and blown away. Kendal and the few others that remain barely scrape by while dreaming of escape. When a greedy water baron, Carson (Jon Gries, Napoleon Dynamite, Taken) lays claim to what little of the precious resource remains underground, Kendal must decide whether to run and hide or bravely fight for the few cherished people and things she has left.
Taking place "a few years from now, the film, THE LAST SURVIVORS finds the state of Oregon in rather desperate times. It hasn't rained in nearly a decade, and the result has been, that many have died, and the land has dried up. And it is because of the latter, that those who have survived up until now, have had difficulty doing so. One of the last buildings still left standing(although a little rundown and hollowed), is the Wallace Farm for Troubled youths. It is here that we meet two orphaned teens, who are among the last survivors. For what seemingly some time now, both Kendal Crane and Dean Henson have barely scraped by. With Dean, now very ill, Kendal does the best she can to keep the two of them afloat, often fetching water from a secluded well - which seems to be the only one left, that's in working order. Their plan is to eventually board a plane and head for an island home, which once belonged to Dean's uncle. However, their dreams of greener pastures is one that would not be easily achieved, as they have several obstacles that await them. Besides Dean's fading health and the shortage of water, they also run into the problem of a distributor cap on the plane being defective. Not only this, but standing in their way of finding a working new one, are a group of savages, who are led by a greedy water baron named, Carson. a man who hopes to successfully seize, not only all of the water, but the land is well. With Carson and company paroling the desert land, heavily armed, looking to eliminate all of those who remain, for he fears that they will use up all of the water that is left, both Kendal and Dean, must wait it out as they narrowly escape capture on several occasions. However, eventually it's up to Kendal, who must brave the desert storm, and her thirst for water to protect both herself and what she has left. In the end, armed with both a shotgun and a Samurai sword, young Kendal bravely takes the fight to Carson and his regime, in hopes of making a successful escape.
Like many a sub-genre efforts, post-apocalyptic films have come and gone at about a dime a dozen rate in recent years. And like with films featuring vampires, zombies and such, they all have began to look the same in my opinion. So when it comes to seeing and reviewing films of this kind, I am always hesitant to take them on, fearing that I might be bored to death(again). Yes, post-apocalyptic films have become something that just aren't my favorite. Because of this, I always look very closely to determine if there might be something rewarding about the film prior to seeing. Will the film possibly offer me something new, and not just be more of the same old thing? That's my usual train of thought.
In the case of Writer/Director Thomas S. Hammock's film, THE LAST SURVIVORS, something immediately caught my eye, and that is the fact that the film is essentially led primarily by a young cast, which is supported by older counterparts. Because of this, I became interested.
While the setting of the post-apocalyptic plane found in THE LAST SURVIVORS is basically the same as just about every other film of its type(a dried up, sand filled terrain), the film is anchored by a great scenario. As it is, it has failed to rain for almost a decide, and so water has become very valuable - people literally kill for the natural liquid. And if that wasn't already taxing for those who survive, the land is being ruled with an iron fist, by a greedy bastard, who wants everything for himself, and so, he and his men will do what it takes in order to take over(yes, even massacre in cold blood). While watching the film, which ends up being pretty epic, I kept thinking to myself that it could be considered to be some sort of "teenage Western". And it could. The film has the grittiness of a Western, with the colorfulness of a 1970s Exploitation flick. It is truly a great blend. For me, Kendal Crane's bloody and courageous fight to the death in the end, totally echoes Christina Lindberg's kick ass exercise in revenge in the cult classic, THEY CALL HER ONE EYE(aka THRILLER : CRUEL PICTURE). And that is a great thing. The action is ultimately fast paced and emotionally charged. It's well conceived, with a payoff, that feels really great in the end.
It's all great, but of course it wouldn't be so, if the film had not featured the performances that it does. Elevating things to another level is newcomer Haley Lu Richardson, who leads the way, as the brave and courageous "Kendal Crane", who eventually becomes the warrior that she needs to be in order the survive. Richardson is both likable and believable as her character, as it doesn't take long for the viewer to connect with her. We end up feeling for her and rooting for her to successfully board her plane and get out of there. On this notion, Richardson is further supported in this by Actor Boo Boo Stewart, who portrays "Dean Henson". In the film, it's revealed that Dean's sister Pia succumbed to thirst and hunger, thus the event has seemingly made the two survivors more closer. So, with that said, Dean is essentially a love interest. The relationship serves as a central catalyst, to create emotion, and that feeling of desperation, as to survive, they need to escape. Both Richardson and Stewart work really well together to successfully achieve this to great effect. A definite job well done by both of the young Actors. On the other side of things, the threat comes from both vagrants, who themselves are looking for water. and a greedy water baron. In the film, no threat is bigger than that of Mr. Carson, the man in question, whom proves himself to be ruthless and dirty in his tactics. Leading a band of like-minded savages(which also includes the character's daughter), the character is played brilliantly by character Actor, Jon Gries.Yes, the goofy guy who was responsible for the great "Uncle Rico" character in NAPOLEON shows us her that he can also do the bad guy - and surprisingly enough, he's actually pretty intimidating. In the film, Carson is a figure that the survivors fear, and via the performance from Gries we can definitely sense this. We watch as he kills people, even families just because he wants what they have, he's all things nasty and crude on screen. We are meant to not like him, and dislike him, we do in the end. After all, that is exactly what villain characters in any story are for. Collectively, everyone works together nicely to create an experience that is really impressive overall.
To sum things up,THE LAST SURVIVORS isn't exactly your typical post apocalyptic affair. It is one that vividly brings its proposed idea to life, presenting us with characters that are both imaginative and well realized. For a film which I knew almost nothing about before going in, it is one that really snuck up and surprised me a great deal. I really enjoyed it.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
I really liked this film, and as I said it comes as a big surprise. With the influx of teen flicks, like the TWILIGHTs and the HUNGER GAMES films, THE LAST SURVIVORS is a film that could easily fit within that cannon. While I do understand that it has received a limited release in theaters, I feel that it is one that is worthy of a much wider release. Although it doesn't have the same fanfare, or the budget of those "bigger" films, I think that with the right marketing and support, a film like this could also be a hit among that teen/young adult crowd. It is a great film, both visually, and in story, and I believe that the film's lead, Haley Lu Richardson is destined to be the next big star, as she really brings it here. If you get the chance, definitely, do check this one out!
Special Features include :
- Cast commentary
- Direcor and Producer commentary
- Deleted scenes
- Behind the Scenes featurette
- Haley Lu Richardson audition footage
- Slide Show
- Theatrical trailer
This film will be released on Blu-Ray/DVD, and via Video on Demand and digital download on August 4, 2015