In a barren, post-apocalyptic America, water is everything – and it’s in dwindling supply in the action-packed film The Last Survivors. The movie centers on a teenage girl fighting to protect the last working well in a drought-stricken land. At the edge of an expansive, dusty valley, all that remains of the Wallace Farm for Wayward Youth are some hollowed-out husks of buildings. Seventeen-year-old Kendal (Haley Lu Richardson) can barely recall when the Oregon valley was all lush farmland. It’s been a decade since the last rainfall, and society at large has dried up and blown away.
Kendal and her last friend on earth, Dean (Booboo Stewart) barely scrape by while dreaming of escape. Dean is ill and can stay alive only by drinking water regularly – luckily, he and Kendal have access to a special well with enough water for both of them. But when a greedy water baron 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 things she has left.
When I was initially pitched to check out the film the concept of a post-apocalyptic film where a young woman was the center of the action seemed intriguing, especially after Mad Max: Fury Road showed how you can put together an empowering and entertaining film. Watching the film, I perked up within the first few minutes as the visuals immediately caught my eye.
Whether on purpose or just coincidentally, Tom Hammock, who makes his directorial debut (he’s also a comic book writer of Will O’ the Wisp and a Mouse Guard story both through Archaia), evokes a look and color palette of another post-apocalyptic world, television’s The Walking Dead. This isn’t a bad thing at all. The color choice, the opening credits, they immediately had me hooked, partially due to this. It evoked a familiarity that helped to enhance a sparse film. Sparse in location and characters, which is part of the charm of the film.
While Fury Road took us on a ride across the desert, The Last Survivors keeps things at home, taking place primarily around a few buildings. While that might seem a bit claustrophobic, it actually feels the exact opposite. The world and its surrounding area seem very expansive and quite large. Hammock has done an impressive job in achieving that.
The cast is a lot of folks who you recognize from various films and television shows, and they work well. There’s not much dialogue, instead the dust, dirt, and action does much of the speaking. The film has a western feel about it due to that. While it has been described as a drama, a suspenseful futuristic western seems more appropriate.
Like Fury Road, at the center of the film is a female lead who is scraping things together. This isn’t some over the top badass. She messes up, is frail, but tough at the same time. Luck seems to have as much to do with her survival, as does her skill, and due to that the film’s heroine seems more believable. It helps ground the film, and keeps Kendal from becoming some super killing machine.
The film is really enjoyable, and while some might call it a B-movie, it’s too well done to really fall into that category. The script is minimal, and acting muted, but the visuals and overall package were quite enjoyable. It’s a solid film that you should absolutely check out through video on demand or digital download. It’s a gem of a film that’s both brutal and beautiful at the same time.
Overall rating: 8