Generations after the Great Reset – a fall of technological civilisation conveyed by the lightsgoing out all over the globe – the Varosha tribe choose their leader by sending the young candidates into the forest with the outgoing chief to undergo a ritual ordeal-test before selection. Leader Nus (Luke D’Silva) has to choose between hot-tempered, surly orphan Eiren (Jade-Fenix Hobday), ambitious and ruthless Ares (Marc Zammit) and charismatic but foolish Thade (Adam Bond) … and the situation is complicated by the arrival of wounded Flinn (Laura Marie Howard), refugee from an unseen city, toting a lock-box which is sought by masked warriors 9 (Bentley Kalu), 6 (Ahmed Hashimi) and 3 (Adam Ford). Inside the box is perhaps the world’s last functioning handgun.
This low-budget British science fiction film, shot on locations in Essex and the Lake District, falls into the tribal post-apocalypse future genre of such oddities as Teenage Cave Men and Dark Enemy – though it’s also a fable-like drama of character-testing that evokes the theme of Lord of the Rings with a quest to get rid of a lethal weapon to keep it out of the hands of tyrants who would like to be considered as Gods. With a small cast – thanks to masks, Adam Bond gets to play two characters – and only a burned-out car in a repurposed paintball maze to represent the vanished civilisation, the film has to depend on its archetypal character struggles and some chase-and-fight stuntwork to conjure up its future world. The tribe are outfitted in oddments of punk and American Indian gear, with distinctive warpaint, and speak in a mix of invented argot (with subtitles) and ominous statements about who is and isn’t fit to lead Varosha.
Hobday is a wiry, ferocious physical presence as the post-apocalyptic waif who seems destined to rule – and writer/director Tom Paton cannily lets us know from the outset that she’s the previous leader’s obvious pick before blurring things as Ares sneakily tries to sabotage her and Thade blunders unhelpfully into a hobbling beartrap. The business with the box hints at a wider world beyond this forest, but the script has to set aside the inconvenience that a gun is only useful so long as people know how to get or make bullets. The masked warriors are striking-looking, but mostly just loom up – until Bentley Kalu enlivens the finale with a full-on cannibal ranting maniac bad guy who has enough energy to pose a bigger threat to the heroine than the merely scheming, cowardly and self-interested Ares.